The play had no name. In fact, the Johnston football had run it before – only to get flagged by an overzealous referee.
But playing Pilgrim in a game that was scheduled two days before it took place, the Panthers decided to break it out again – and much like wide receiver Joey Acciardo does on the play, the entire internet flipped out.
If you haven’t seen video of the play – shot by WPRI videographer Ryan Clifton – it starts like any another goal-line play with Acciardo running in motion to his right. Then the fun begins.
Acciardo busts into handsprings, a Pilgrim linebacker expletively wonders what’s going on and the distraction allows Johnston quarterback Hunter Remington to take the snap and slide into the end zone for the touchdown in what ended up being a 29-12 win for the Panthers.
The video was posted to Twitter by sports reporter Rosie Langello before turkeys were done cooking and didn’t take long before it was the talk around Thanksgiving Day tables around the country. Several national sports blogs picked up the video and CBS Today showcased the flip heard around Rhode Island on their Friday morning broadcast.
Now there’s an even better angle of the play.
Shot by Acciardo’s mother Jo-Ann from the sideline, you can see Acciardo’s flips coming right to your screen. Jo-Ann Acciardo sent the video the Providence Journal on Friday for this story.
Acciardo’s not your normal over-athletic receiver; his mother Jo-Ann runs High Steppin’ Dance Academy in Johnston where Acciardo trained before he even picked up a football. He’s danced on stage with Bieber, performed at the Macy’s Day Parade and auditioned for a TV show hosted by Jennifer Lopez.
More:From dance studio to gridiron, Johnston’s Joey Acciardo credits his football success to training as a dancer
His dad’s is Johnston’s football coach, so armed with the knowledge of his son’s tumbling ability, they installed a red-zone play with Acciardo flipping in motion to see if it would work.
It did. On that play, as Acciardo went in motion, receiver Thomas Zednik said “watch this” to the defensive back covering him, trying to get him to get distracted by the tumbling that was about to go down. Acciardo went into his flips, Zednik ran a back-pylon fade and scored a TD. The ref thought the All-Stater was talking trash and flagged him, negating the play.
The play also probably shouldn’t have happened because until Tuesday at about 1:30 p.m., Johnston wasn’t even on the Thanksgiving Day schedule.
After losing to Narragansett in the Division III semifinals, the Panthers continued to practice just in case something happened. Instead of normal game prep, Johnston had some fun with its seniors and worked in some unconventional trick plays – like linemen throwing the ball, laterals and Acciardo’s flip.
Johnston had trouble with the flip play in practice because of the difficulty in getting the timing down with Acciardo’s motion, the flips, and their traditional goal-line counts. To solve this, Johnston basically threw what it normally does out the window and had Remington wait a moment for Acciardo to get started before snapping the ball on a modified count.
All this prep ended up mattering because on Tuesday Toll Gate backed out of its Thanksgiving Day game with Pilgrim, which went out searching for a – pardon the pun – dance partner.
It found one in Johnston and the rest is internet history.