The most famous plays in football history have names that all fans can recognize.
Like the “Immaculate Reception,” when the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Franco Harris caught a deflected pass and scored to beat the Oakland Raiders in a 1972 playoff game. Or the “Miracle at the Meadowlands,” when the Eagles’ Herm Edwards scooped up an unexpected fumble and scored to beat the New York Giants in 1978.
On Saturday, what will go down as one of the most memorable plays in Delaware high school football unfolded at Concord. Call it “Hibbert’s Heist.”
William Penn’s (New Castle, Del.) Matthew Hibbert picked up a teammate’s fumble at midfield and sprinted 50 yards to give the Colonials a miraculous, 29-26 victory over Concord.
Two days later, on Monday, the players and coaches involved were still buzzing about it.
“Never in my life have I been a part of anything like this,” William Penn coach Marvin Dooley said.
The Colonials were trailing 26-21 and facing fourth-and-10 at their own 32. Quarterback Jahsan Gildersleeve rolled to his right and completed a pass to Terin Cochran at his own 45. Cochran was stood up by one Raiders defender, then swarmed by three others. The clock was ticking under 30 seconds.
Suddenly, the ball popped out and forward. Hibbert was approaching the play from the left, and the ball squirted right to him.
“When the ball was thrown, I kind of jogged over. I was going to block if he broke a tackle,” Hibbert said. “When I saw the ball come out, I just picked it up and I saw green grass and started running.”
Dooley said the 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior is “the fastest guy on my team.” He had clear sailing, but almost didn’t make it. Concord’s Grahm “Bam” Roberts was giving chase, and he dove and clipped Hibbert’s heels at the 8-yard line.
“At about the 10, I almost cramped up. So I slowed down a little bit,” Hibbert said. “Bam kind of grabbed my leg, and I stumbled a little bit. But I wasn’t going to fall.
“Then I just did a flip into the end zone, to make it look better.”
Suddenly, the Colonials were ahead with eight seconds to play. And Hibbert’s teammates were jumping on him in celebration.
“I got thrown to the ground like five times,” Hibbert said. “They hit me so hard, my pads broke. … I was just speechless.”
Gildersleeve was one of the happy Colonials.
“I thought Terin was going to score by himself with a couple of blocks, to be honest,” the quarterback said. “I saw the fumble. When I saw Matthew pick it up, I just started running after Matthew.”
Cochran, who had fumbled, was confused.
“I caught the ball, tried to fight as much as I could, break every tackle,” the receiver said. “A guy came from behind me and I fumbled. My mind went blank right there.
“I got up, and our side was cheering. I couldn’t figure out why we were cheering.”
And, of course, there was disbelief on the other side of the field.
“My gosh,” Concord coach Greg Mitchell said. “You couldn’t make it up, like the bounce, and just … I don’t know what to say. I’m getting ready to celebrate, and then I look up and I was like, ‘This is not happening.’”
It capped a seesaw game that had four lead changes and a tie. William Penn recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, and recovered another fumble for a touchback. Concord returned an interception for a touchdown, and got a safety when a snap flew out of the end zone.
Mitchell knew it was a miraculous play, even though his Raiders were on the losing end. He was kind enough to share a video clip of the play with The News Journal.
“Honestly, I think we take this harder than the kids,” Mitchell said of his coaching staff. “The kids are resilient. They were disappointed at the end, but they pop back quick.”
It will take the William Penn players a long time to forget it. Like never.
“I’m going to remember this forever,” Cochran said. “I’ve got to. That’s going to be something I can talk about 30 years from now.”
Now, the sixth-ranked Colonials (3-2) have to regain their focus in time for a big home game against fifth-ranked Hodgson at 1 p.m. next Saturday. But the man who pulled off “Hibbert’s Heist” will have the play running through his head for some time.
“I’ve watched that play at least 30 times,” Hibbert said. “I don’t know, I’m just speechless. I can’t wrap my head around it now.
“I just saw the opportunity, and I took it.”