Logan Thompson (left) and Michael Ferns share a hug last Friday after Thompson scored on a 1-yard touchdown run that Ferns set up by intentionally stepping out of bounds. Thompson's father died of a stroke earlier in the week. / Jeff Stewart
(USA Today) -- Early in the fourth quarter of a St. Clairsville (Clairsville, Ohio) win over Edison (Richmond, Ohio) on Oct. 5, Michigan recruit Michael Ferns took a sweep 52 yards down the left sideline and had nothing in the way of him and a touchdown.
But he slowed down as he approached the end zone and walked out of bounds at the 1-yard line.
"Mike ran the play to perfection," St. Clairsville coach Brett McLean said.
Two days earlier, freshman Logan Thompson's father, Paul, died from a sudden stroke. Once McLean learned that Logan would indeed suit up for Friday's game against Edison, McLean began to formulate a plan to help his freshman wide receiver "honor his father."
Secretly, McLean instructed Ferns and the other skill players, if given the chance, to stop short on a touchdown so they could get Logan in.
"When I saw Mike break away down the sideline I just started yelling for Logan," McLean said. "He was surprised because he - like everyone else - figured Mike would just run it on in. Logan didn't know anything about what we were doing."
The officials were equally confused.
When Ferns literally walked away from his 12th touchdown of the season, two officials signaled for a touchdown, a call that Boston College-bound receiver Dan Monteroso adamantly argued.
"I think it's the first time that the refs have seen our boys argue against us getting a touchdown," McLean said. "I told Logan, 'We're gonna get you in the end zone."
Thompson, a starter on the freshman team, plays sparingly at best on varsity and never lined up at running back, but McLean simplified the isolation play call with three words: "Just follow Ferns."
"Mike and the line opened up a huge hole for Logan and he ran it right in," McLean said. "He had his first touchdown on his first carry. Mike ran up to Logan and gave him a big hug. It was emotional for everyone."
St. Clairsville ended up winning, 56-27.
Logan's emotion poured out onto Twitter after the game. "Looking straight up into the sky after scoring my first varsity touchdown...i know the old man was watching! love and miss you so much daddy," he tweeted.
Still grieving, Logan and Ferns declined to comment on this story.
"They're teenagers and it's not something they want to talk about today," McLean said. "Last Friday was something that touched the whole team. Logan was going through so much and for a few minutes we helped him get his mind off of things. It honored his dad. It was just an awesome moment."
Reported and written by Jason Jordan, a High School Sports reporter for USA TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY.