Fred Billy faked the handoff on a read option and took off. Just a few yards into the run, Billy started losing his balance.
He didn’t fall to the ground for a short gain.
He kept his balance and motored for a 13-yard touchdown run late in the first half of another Saint Stephen’s blowout victory.
But this touchdown was even more special.
“My mom was probably helping me on that play,” said Billy, whose mom passed away in 2016.
It was the quarterback’s 100th career touchdown and it came on senior night of the Falcons’ 49-16 victory over Bradenton Christian on Thursday at the Moore Athletic Complex at Turner Fields.
“He grabbed me Tuesday at practice and said, ‘Are you ready to cry Thursday night,’ ” Saint Stephen’s head coach Tod Creneti said. “And we all are incredibly emotional. That kid has come so far and done so much. On the field and off the field and in the locker room and places that people never see. ... He has never come out and played for that number. He has played for the school and these kids, and that’s what makes him easy to love.”
Saint Stephen’s (5-0, 4-0) clinched the Sunshine State Athletic Conference Coral Bay Division title with the win, which saw ridiculous offensive efficiency in the first half.
The Falcons scored six touchdowns on 15 plays in the first two quarters to enact a running clock for the second half.
Mostly sticking to the ground game, Saint Stephen’s tallied 284 rushing yards with Chase Brown tallying 153 yards on five carries during the first-half onslaught.
But among all the seniors honored Thursday, Billy’s performance was especially memorable considering how his world was turned upside down in 2016.
It was the spring when Billy’s mother, Erma Fordham, passed away of a heart attack after battling cancer.
Billy said he held back tears after returning to the sideline following his third touchdown — the 100th of his career — late in the first half.
Then Billy’s two older cousins, Darvin Peacock and Marquise Woodard, flanked him on the field during halftime where they posed for photos as the public address announcer read off Billy’s accolades as a senior night honoree.
“They’re the reason why I’m in love with the football like the way that I am,” said Billy, who didn’t play in the second half with the big lead established. “They just saw me in the house running around playing football by myself in the living room bouncing from couch to couch. ... They were at every little league game. They’ve been there since the jump.”
Billy said several teammates off last year’s team such as Jordan and Jordon Murrell, Peyton and Cam Vining, Josh Stevens, Alex Virgilio, Mike Burch, Bobby Harrison and so on helped him after his mom passed away.
“All the money in the world can’t repay those guys for how they stood by me when I lost my mom,” Billy said. “It was amazing. ... It was a band of brothers. Those are my brothers for life.”
Billy said his teammates and coaches helped him smile when there were days he couldn’t.
On Thursday, Billy wrote another chapter in his storied Saint Stephen’s football career and thanked everyone that supported him.
That included former quarterbacks coach Brion Carnes, a former Manatee High star who is currently the Hurricanes’ quarterbacks coach and was in attendance Thursday.
A Tulane college recruiter was also watching Thursday’s game, which saw Bradenton Christian open with an onside kick and go ahead 7-0 off Zach Seagreaves’ 17-yard touchdown pass to Winston Spencer.
After that, though, it was the Billy and Brown show on offense for the Falcons. They struck fast with Billy scoring on a 53-yard touchdown run on the Falcons’ opening possession.
“It’s like a video game for him,” BCS head coach Dan Fort said. “He’s unbelievable.”