Late in the first half of Mexico Central Academy’s regular-season football finale at Vernon-Verona-Sherrill on Saturday, Tigers’ quarterback Dante Turo took a snap from center and bolted 73 yards for a touchdown.
As he crossed the goal line well ahead of any V-V-S defenders, Turo, a devout Christian, raised his right arm and pointed skyward. He also held the football up with his left hand.
“I was just trying to give glory to God,” Turo said Tuesday.
Instead of signalling a touchdown, an official standing on the goal line reached into his back pocket and tossed up a yellow penalty flag.
The call: Turo was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, for taunting, said Mexico head coach Tee Murabito, who questioned the call.
“All season long, he’s been doing that,” Murabito said. “No one ever came up to me and said he’s got to stop that.”
The result: The TD counted, but Mexico was penalized 15 yards for the conversion attempt. Murabito opted to go for two points, because the kick of one point would have been from about 33 yards away.
Mexico didn’t make the two-point conversion and went into the locker room at halftime down, 13-12.
“At that point, right before the half, we would have kicked to tie the game,” Murabito said. “So we had to go for two. It kind of changed the course of the game.”
The Tigers wound up losing, 33-31.
Murabito said the call — the first of its kind against Turo, a junior who’s been celebrating TDs the same way all season long — had an impact on the team’s extra-point decisions after three subsequent TDs.
“Was that a play that cost us the game? No. But it did have an influence. That call had more impact than you see in the box score,” said Murabito, who had his team go for two points, rather than kick for one, after its next two TDs.
Turo, who rushed for four TDs on Saturday, said he had also pointed skyward earlier in the game, following a 1-yard sneak to score. No official said anything to him. That’s why he was so surprised to see a flag on the ground after his second TD.
“I do it every time I score, no matter if it’s a QB sneak or a longer run,” said Turo, who has 12 rushing TDs this season. “The ref said I was taunting the other team. That wasn’t my intention at all.”
Turo, who does some of the kicking for Mexico, said he spoke to the referee who made the earlier call prior to the second-half kickoff.
“I kind of explained to him that I wasn’t trying to do anything arrogant or anything like that. I was just expressing my faith. He just said ‘Don’t do it again.’ Those were his only words,” Turo said. “Honestly, I don’t think it was right. I wasn’t trying to bring attention to myself.”
Click here to read more.