You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 5:45 a.m.

Saline's Gage Hammond turns botched snap into 80-yard touchdown, plus other district final notes and leaders

By Kyle Austin


Saline celebrates after teammate Gage Hammond recovered a high snap for a punt and took it around 80 yards for a touchdown during a district championship game at Saline High School on Friday evening. Saline defeated Ann Arbor Pioneer 31-17.

Joseph Tobianski |

The Saline football team found out Friday night there’s a distinct advantage to having its top receiver as its punter.



Joe Kendzicky

171 - Joe Kendzicky, Gabriel Richard (12-of-18, 1 TD, 0 INT)
134 - Tyler Palka, Saline (9-of-12, 0 TD, 1 INT)
87 - Brandon Bertoia, Pioneer (10-of-19, 0 TD, 2 INT)


Marquise Thomas

186 - Marquise Thomas, Pioneer (26 rushes, 2 TD)
95 - Jim Kurasz, Manchester (18 rushes, 1 TD)
91 - Robert Kanitz, Milan (12 rushes, 1 TD)


Steve Tracy

68 - Steve Tracy, Gabriel Richard (4 receptions, 0 TD)
66 - Cameron Cole, Pioneer (6 receptions, 0 TD)
64 - Blaise Stearns, Gabriel Richard (3 receptions, 1 TD)

The Hornets’ Gage Hammond lined up to punt late in the fourth quarter against Pioneer, only to watch the snap sail far over his head.

But when he picked up the ball near his own 20, he was able to juke his way to midfield, before cutting all the way across to the other sideline and into the end zone.

And despite looking physically exhausted, he stayed on to nail the extra point.

The play earned him a reprieve from a flub later: he shanked a punt that went out of bounds at the line of scrimmage, setting up a Pioneer touchdown.

“That’s why I didn’t get mad when he punted the second one out of bounds,” Saline coach Joe Palka said. “I said ‘The kid just scored on a punt snapped over his head.'”

The touchdown was Hammond’s tenth of the year, including eight receiving and two rushing. He also has nine field goals and 40 extra points on the year.

“That’s the kind of kid Gage is,” Palka said. "He’s a gamer, he’s an athlete. Whenever he touches the ball he’s a threat to go the distance.”

Playoff success continues

This postseason continues to be one of the best on record for the area’s high school football programs.

In the opening weekend of high school football, Washtenaw County set a new record with five teams advancing to district title games. This past weekend, the county matched its high water mark with a pair of district champions in Saline and Father Gabriel Richard.

This weekend, Saline or FGR could do something that hasn’t been done in 15 years.

No area team has won a regional title since Huron in 1997. The River Rats went on to the state title game that year before losing to Detroit Catholic Central.

Neither Saline nor Gabriel Richard has ever won a regional title.

Manchester unable to capitalize

Manchester was gifted one last chance to mount an upset bid over Grass Lake Friday night, but couldn’t take advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Grass Lake had scored a touchdown to go up by three scores over the Flying Dutchmen. But when a holding penalty called the score back, Grass Lake faced first and 25 from just inside the 30.

A defensive stop could have given Manchester enough time to get back into the game. But instead, Grass Lake notched a first down in two plays, and a touchdown two plays later to pull ahead for a 27-7 win.

Revisiting the brawl

Pioneer coach Paul Test spoke publicly Friday for the first time last week about the Oct. 12 brawl between his team and Huron, and hinted that the book hasn’t been closed on the incident.

“The truth of all of it, it never really did come out of what really went on,” Test said. “The truth eventually will come out.”

Friday night, though, after his team’s loss to Saline, was not the time to divulge any truths. Test instead spent the time speaking to his players at length after the game and consoling several who were in tears.

Test, in his first game back on the sideline after serving a two-game suspension, was repaying a favor. The aftermath of the brawl was “very stressful,” he said, but he had been supported by his team through it all.

And the fans showed their support too, hanging a large banner hung from the visitors bleachers that read: “We love coach Test.”

“They’ve let me know that they care about me,” Test said.

Game of the Week

Our two regional title games are going head-to-head in this week's Game of the Week poll. Voting is open until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Kyle Austin covers sports for He can be reached at or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.



Thu, Nov 8, 2012 : 4:24 a.m.

I really don't think coach test wants the truth to come out because if it does he will have so much to hide. THE PARTY IS OVER GUY


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

No criticism here Kyle, but I was at the game... The play was way better then that. The snap did not sail over Gage's head, it was a high snap which Gage could not pull down, it deflected off his finger tips and tumbled behind him. He turned around to recover it with two Pioneers after him, in close pursuit and in full sprint. As Gage tried to recover the tumbling ball it took a funny football bounce which made the ball come towards Gage's feet. Rather then fall on the ball and recover it, he kicked it like a soccer dribble to allow him another chance to field the fumble, which he did very close to the side line and in mid stride. He picked up the ball without breaking stride and cut straight up field, broke an arm tackle, then cut to the other other sideline for daylight and with several Pioneers behind him he sprinted to the end zone. No one could match his speed. In my 50 years of watching and playing ball I never saw a play like that. What impressed me most was this maturity in a young athlete; One, to think it, Two, to try it, Three, to pull it off. I've watched this young man all season make big plays and kick a mean ball. He can clear the field on any given kick off, punt and kick field goals. I'm sure Coach Palka has not seen many like #2. I expect this guy to play on Saturdays in the NCAA.


Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Is that a legal play? Can the punter kick a ball and then pick it up without it touching a player from the opposing team? I'm pretty sure that any other player cannot kick a fumbled ball but I believe a punter or kicker can still kick it as long as it's behind the line of scrimmage. But it doesn't sound right that he could kick the ball in any way and then pick it up and run with it as a live ball. I would think the play would be whistled dead as soon as he touched the ball after kicking it.

Kyle Austin

Wed, Nov 7, 2012 : 12:48 a.m.

Have you ever considered trying my profession? Good description, I must have missed the kick. The only thing I didn't like about the play is that it happened on the far side of the field from the press box.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 10:15 p.m.

The truth? As in...why the need to run it up and rub it in vs. Dexter, vs. Skyline, and vs Huron? What purpose was served? What lessons are being taught? The truth? Please tell us. We can handle the truth.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.

Test should stop talking altogether. He really doesn't want the truth to come out. The damage has already been done. If he keeps talking, he will only open himself and his assistant coaches up to more public scrutiny.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 4:15 p.m.

The truth will come out? I doubt it. In the aftermath of the 2 teams going at it, it's my understanding that 4 players from one team and 6 from another were suspended. Hard to imagine with so many going at it that this few actually participated in the fight.


Tue, Nov 6, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Coach test what a joke,he has the masses fooled, well at least the suburbanites with no streets smarts.