A high school referee signals first down after appearing to move the ball that was spotted and ruled short.

The football teams from Eastern and Vineland High Schools, from Vorhees and Vineland, New Jersey, respectively, squared off on Thursday night. Eastern entered the game at 1-7 while Vineland was 2-6. So, this clearly wasn’t a clash between two of the Garden State’s better teams. But while the game may not have been particularly consequential, a controversy that arose from it was.

Trailing by a point in the fourth quarter, the Eastern offense faced a fourth down. The pass was completed short of the marker and in his run after the catch, the receiver made it close to the sticks before being tackled. Naturally, that prompted an official measurement.

Given the lack of cameras at most high school games, it was tough to tell if the runner reached the first down marker. While the angle was not great, it appeared as though he was stopped just short of the marker. The measurement upheld that notion — or at least it appeared to.

When the chains were stretched out, the ball was clearly short. Only, the head referee had other ideas. Once the chains were set, the referee bent over, moved the ball forward, then signaled for the first down.

“That was a little suspect” might be thetameste way possible to describe what happened.

This drew an impassioned response, to put it mildly.

The entire game can be seen on the Vineland Public Schools Broadcasting YouTube page (the controversial play begins at the 2:01:30 mark). The spot did allow Eastern to score the go-ahead touchdown but Vineland still overcame it, scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute to come away with a 20-19 victory.

Vineland winning, of course, does not exonerate the official for what happened. For his sake, we can only hope that he has a good explanation for this. Because to the naked eye, this is about as bad as it gets.

[Photo Credit: VPS Broadcasting, Mr Matthew CFB, Kevin Minnick]

About Michael Dixon

Michael is a writer and editor for The Comeback Media. Fan of most sports, nerd when it comes to sports history. Bay Area based for now. Likely leaving sometime early in 2023.

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