November 18, 2009

Crazy Cali HS finish has everything but the band

MORE: The Greatest State Debate: We determine where the best HS football is played

Having the band run out onto the field may have been too much to ask for.

But the latest high school version of the famous Cal-Stanford end-of-game lateral play is just as fun to watch.

Here's the setup:

Two seconds to play, Woodland (Calif.) Pioneer High is down a point to cross-town rival Woodland. It has the ball on its own 43.

A victory would put Pioneer in the playoffs. One pass, three laterals - a special fake - and a bunch of missed tackles later, Pioneer has a victory - and a highlight clip - for the ages.

For the record, the play went QB Jason Williams to Jacob Snethen to Sam Marquez to James Tillman back to Snethen, who goes in for the score.

The play wasn't planned. It just happened.

"I told the kids to just keep pitching it before they went down," Pioneer coach David Butterworth said.

Butterworth is trying to get his team ready for this week's playoff game, but admits the big play is still the talk of the town.

"The buzz has not gone down at all," he said. "A parent met me after practice last night and gave me a huge hug. She said she still hasn't gotten off that cloud."

For good reason. This just wasn't any game.

In Woodland, Calif., this is the game.

"You have to understand, this is like the World Series here," Butterworth said. "We had about 6,000 people there."

Butterworth would like to take credit for the play, but says his players deserve the praise.

"We've got an amazing amount of football savvy on this team," he said. "The guys are always talking football, watching football ... it's pretty cool."

It showed on the final play.

The key move came from Tillman, who took the second lateral. Seemingly ready to go down, he faked a lateral back - which froze the Woodland defense. He then spun out of the crowd and headed down the sideline.

"He's such a special player," Butterworth said. "There's not a day that goes by when he doesn't do something that blows my mind. He's one of the best high school players I've ever coached.

"When he did that fake, that's what sprung us."

But not all the way.

When he was about to go down about the 30, Tillman flipped it back to Snethen, who took it home, dragging a defender with him into the end zone.

"The fastest guy on our team is James Tillman ... the second fastest is Snethen - so it was nice that they were able to hook up out there," Butterworth said.

More amazing is that the team even got a chance to try the play. The game appeared to be over on a number of occasions.

Pioneer controlled the ball for most of the game, but in the final minutes, Woodland scored a touchdown and got the two-point conversion to take an 8-7 lead.

On the first play following the kickoff, Pioneer threw an interception.

"All hope appeared to be lost," Butterworth said.

Pioneer used its three timeouts on the next three plays to kill the clock - but it couldn't stop Woodland from getting a first down.

Again, the game appeared to be over.

Then Woodland fumbled a toss and Pioneer had new life.

But, following three straight incompletions, Pioneer was running out of plays and the clock.

It hit a 12-yard completion for the first down, then got to the line and spiked the ball with two seconds left.

What happened next was the stuff of high school legend.

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