Fla. HS player flagged for end zone prayer

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Fort Myers beat Riverdale 49-0 in a District 7A-11 matchup on homecoming night and Senior Night on Friday.

In the second quarter, Sam Turner scored on a 27-yard pass from Dylan DeGroot and briefly dropped to a knee in prayer in the end zone and pointed toward the sky. The move instantly drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It was the first touchdown of his high school career.

"I told God that after the first touchdown I scored I was going to give him the glory" Turner told Gannett-owned Fort Myers News Press on Sunday. "I said 'thank you, God, for this talent you've blessed me with,'

"I threw up a No. 1 for Jo Jo to honor him on Senior Night (teammate Jo Jo Brunson was killed in a 2013 drive-by shooting and was honored in a pregame ceremony).

"The official threw the flag. The official told me I was drawing attention to myself with a celebratory action."

Turner's gesture has been drawing mostly positive feedback in Southwest Florida and beyond and he seems to be taking the attention in stride. Turner is a member of Next Level Church and one of nine siblings.

"It's very cool to see how everyone is taking it," he said. "I use my faith as a platform for my talents. My teammates are giving my tons of support. They all know I'm strong believer, even though it cost us 15 yards." He also acknowledged it might have been a little tougher if the penalty had cost them the game.

Fort Myers coach Sam Siriani Jr., said he cannot fault the emotions displayed by Turner nor can he find fault with the reaction by the officials.

"It comes down to a ref's discretion," he said. "To them, they try to follow the letter of the rules. You accept both sides. I have seen it happen at all levels. The officials have to toe the line."

This follows an Alabama school ending its postgame prayer after a complaint was received and coaches in Delaware standing behind the idea of a team prayer after a Wisconsin-based advocacy group complained.


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