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The final 37 seconds of this high school football game took a surreal 17 minutes

The last 37 seconds of Friday’s football game between Artesia High School and Goddard High School took around 17 minutes to get to a flat zero. It’s probably the most surreal ending to a football game we’ve seen yet.

Here’s the set-up: It’s 35-34 and Artesia has the lead. On 3rd and 7 in Artesia’s 36-yard line, Goddard has possession and gets intercepted with 32 seconds left on the clock.

And here we begin Goddard’s long, penalty-filled journey to getting the ball back and winning the game.

1st and 10 on Artesia’s 15, 32 seconds left. Contrary to what the broadcast is showing, Goddard had one timeout left. All Artesia had to do was kneel and run the clock. Artesia got a penalty for an illegal formation, which confuses the announcers who initially thought Goddard was called for offsides. Ball goes back five yards.

1st and 15 on Artesia’s 10, 32 seconds left (still). Goddard gets penalized for offsides. The clock goes down one second.

1st and 10 on Artesia’s 15, 31 seconds left. Play runs, and there’s a pile of players scrambling for the ball. Goddard thinks they have it, but they get another offsides penalty. Clock goes down one second.

1st and 10 on Artesia’s 20, 30 seconds left. Goddard gets another offsides penalty, and it’s becoming more apparent to the announcers that Goddard’s trying to get a turnover by going for the ball before it’s snapped. The clock does not move.

1st and 10 on Artesia’s 25, 30 seconds left (still). “And we got an offsides again!” the announcer yells. “I can see [Goddard] doing it. They’re getting across the line of scrimmage with their helmets.”

1st and 5 on Artesia’s 30, 30 seconds left (still). Finally, the ball reaches Artesia’s QB so he can kneel and run the clock. But the refs call yet another offsides penalty on Goddard, which stops the clock. At least it went down two seconds.

1st and 10 on Artesia’s 35, 28 seconds left. The ball gets snapped and the QB takes a knee, and Goddard takes their last timeout. There’s no penalty called for once. “You think Goddard will let us get a clean snap?” the announcer asks. “Probably not,” his partner responds.

2nd and 15 on Artesia’s 30, 25 seconds left. Goddard gets over the line of scrimmage again, and this time, they manage to get the ball. They took the ball before it was snapped, which isn’t allowed.

The announcers are looking for an offsides penalty. Goddard’s players are saying it’s a turnover, and well, for some odd reason, they get possession.

* * *

It was the weirdest part of this ending, and naturally, Artesia’s fans were livid on the forums. Several users in a recap thread called out Goddard for playing dirty (and being famous for it), and others tried to guess why the turnover was allowed without it being called offsides. One user claiming to be a ref says that, under high school rules, it’s legal to swipe the ball if the center moved it. But this is the internet, where everything should be taken with a grain of salt, and every debate can devolve into personal attacks (which it kind of did), and it’s at this point I regret reading through the aforementioned thread.

* * *

Anyway, the game’s not finished. Everyone’s emotions, including the announcers, are understandably high. Goddard now has the ball, and they still have 22 seconds left to win. Goddard tries to score a touchdown, and Artesia intercepts.

Oh wait, we have a flag on the field now. Artesia was called for pass interference.

Inanimate objects such as penalty flags don’t talk. But if they did, here’s what this one was saying: “Hey y’all. Nice to see you again. Why don’t we keep this nightmare game going?”

Goddard gets awarded 15 yards toward the end zone, and they decide to kick a 32-yard attempt. They miss. Artesia gets possessi—NOPE, THERE’S ANOTHER FLAG.

It’s on Artesia again. The announcers thought they were called for offsides, but the ref signaled for holding.

Goddard gets another kick, this time a 24-yard attempt.

Nope, wait, one more penalty, and we can’t find a flag on the field, but the refs are gathering. It’s offsides on Artesia. Goddard moves up for a 20-yard attempt, and it’s good. Goddard takes the lead 35-37. The game ends with Goddard recovering the ball on a kickoff.

* * *

It took 17 minutes to finish 30 seconds of football — actually, 30 seconds of penalty after penalty, after penalty, after penalty, after penalty, after turnover-that-was-somehow-not-called-a-penalty, followed by a couple more penalties, and a game-winning field goal.

“This was the worst officiating I have ever seen by far,” the announcer said after the broadcast. And there is cause for concern about the nebulous ruling in the game. Speaking to Albuquerque Journal, Artesia Bulldogs coach Rex Henderson brought up the possibility that Goddard’s turnover tactics would set a precedent for other teams:

Henderson was also concerned about the big picture. Any team within eight points at the end, he said, is liable to start doing this.

“It speaks to the integrity of our game, to be honest,” he said. “If this is OK, then you’re gonna see more teams doing it, and you’ll see more games ending this way.”

Judging from the fans on the forums, the atmosphere during the game, and the interviews afterward, neither team will ever forget this bizarre ending.

(h/t Chris B. Brown)