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South Salt Lake Journal

Cottonwood football closes out season, goes viral after rare fair catch free kick win at Jordan

Nov 03, 2022 07:51PM ● By Brian Shaw

By Brian Shaw | [email protected]

The Cottonwood Colts football team was probably running on fumes two weeks after they went viral. In this day and age of social media, every single move of a football player is broadcast to the world.

So it went for the Colts, who two weeks after losses at Hurricane (37-59, Oct. 7) and at home to Logan (13-49, Oct. 12) were trailing by eight points with 3:00 left in the game at Jordan High School in Sandy, Sept. 30.

“It was craziness,” said Cottonwood head coach Casey Miller, looking back at what led up to this play. “We score...then missed the 2-point conversion…then after we kick off, they (Jordan) get a block in the back (penalty) that pushes them back inside the 20. We get a big TFL (tackle for loss) on third down to set up fourth-and-30 from their 5 yard-line.”

Down two points, coach Miller made a call that he never has.

“There were still 12 seconds on the clock,” he said. “I called timeout and asked the linesman if he had ever seen a fair catch free kick, and he said no. I walked up to the white hat and said, ‘Hey! I'm sending three guys back on this punt and they are going to be fair catching the ball and I'm gonna win this game with a free kick!’ He laughed and couldn't believe it. He said he's never seen it, so I told him, ‘You are about to.’”

As the Colts kickoff team ran onto the field, the reaction around the Jordan High School stadium was one of disbelief—even from Cottonwood’s own supporters.

“My parents are yelling, trying to get me fired in the stands behind me for sending out the kickoff team after making them (Jordan) punt,” Miller said. “It goes in with 12 seconds left and we hold on for the win.”

The rare fair catch free kick from 47 yards was good by Cottonwood kicker Ryan Nielson, giving the Colts a come-from-behind 25-24 victory.

It was the second win of the season for Cottonwood (2-8) and would be the last for this 2022 Colts team. But it was certainly memorable, and pandemonium ensued on the Cottonwood sideline that was filled with about 34 players to coach Miller’s estimation.

That was in comparison to Jordan’s sideline which had about triple the number of players who were angrily protesting to the referees along with parents and Jordan’s own coaching staff about this kick and whether or not it was legal.

It turns out that though the fair catch free kick looks to be illegal, it is not; according to Rule 6-5-Article 4 of the 2022 NFHS (National Federation of High School Coaches) Handbook, it is in fact a legal play and counts as good if the free kick is made between the hash marks “on the yard line through the spot of the catch when a fair catch is (made).”

In the Colts’ case, that’s what happened and so by rule, the call stood and Cottonwood went home happy with the victory.

Though “it was bittersweet” to have lost the final two games, Miller added, the 2022 Cottonwood football team can always look back on two big plays that won two big games: the onside kick on the opening kickoff at homecoming against Murray, and the fair catch free kick that went viral, at Jordan.