November 15, 2008

High school football

My kid's junior varsity team is 3-1 in league play going into last night's final game of the season against the 4-0 league leader. With the score tied, the other team drives down to our 9-yard-line with 9 seconds left. The opposing coach could have his quarterback kneel down with the ball, accept the tie, and win the championship with a 4-0-1 record. But he's playing to win the game, so he sends in the field goal team for the chip shot. The snap is a little high, THUNK, the kick is blocked, the ball squirts out toward the sideline, a defender picks it up on one hop in full stride, and he's gone, racing 90 yards for the touchdown, winning the league title (on the head to head tiebreaker) on the last play of the season.

Moral of the story: As Rick James might have said: "Football's a helluva game!"

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

32 comments:

patrick said...

Congrats to your son and his team on the championship victory.

I agree with the opposing team's coach and his decision to go for the win rather than the tie. Considering that this was a JV game, this should be a great learning experience for the players on both teams to learn that one play can make or break a season.

High school players put in alot of time on the practice field with double sessions in August and weight training during the off-season. The opposing players deserved a chance for the win (as did your son's team) but your son's team capitalized on a special team's turnover.

Many fans remember the 1966 Michigan State vs. Notre Dame 6-6 tie with disgust. Let the players decide the game on the field!

Anonymous said...

Was anything tangible at stake? If not, the opposing coach did the right thing and just let the kids have fun.

milam command said...

Congrats! Enjoyed the play-by-play, and the little glimpse at your non-blogging life. I for one would like a little more of that--something like Derb's level of personal life transparency; but not too much.

Anonymous said...

As Frank Sinatra once put it, "Don't be a pig".

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to your son's team, Steve, and maybe a good lesson about hubris and nemesis for all involved.

Incidents like this prove the importance, in many cases far outweighing talent, brilliance, luck, etc., of good judgment, based on proper assessment of the situation and the possible consequences. I hate to bring up the Neo-Cons again, but it seems that this sort of typifies the way in which people so apparently smart can go so wrong.

Anonymous said...

Shades of Tom Osborne going for the win in the 1981 Orange Bowl. He went for 2 points instead of tying the game and hoping the voters would have still given his Huskers, the only unbeaten team in the land, the championship. The two-point conversion failed, and the Huskers, who had been number 1 all year by blowing out virtually everyone on their schedule, and were acclaimed as "maybe" the greatest team ever (maybe the most roided' up team ever with Messers Dave Remington and Dean Steinkuehler), were rather forgotten by history a few yeas later as only one of their stars, Irving Fryar, ever really "made it" in the NFL (Rozier was only so-so in the bigs, Turner Gill didn't make it).

Osbourne kicks that field goal, he has one more national championship than the two he has now, and nobody would be talking about how he "backed into" the title at this point either. I suppose a bit of testosterone affected his decision that night.

Bill said...

Most of our instincts say to play for the win. The rules said "play for the tie". The rules guide us against our better nature. The opposing coach went with his nature rather than the rules, and lost. That's too bad for him, but it was a lot more entertaining! I wouldn't criticize him for playing for a tie, but I applaud playing to win. That's the spirit of sports. The rules work against spirit. He gave the kids a valuable life lesson on dealing with rules and their government.

This kind of rule perversion is common in tournament sports. In th NHL, the tie rules will someday cause both teams to play for a tie to lock out a third team from a playoff spot.

Anonymous said...

Time to tee up some generalizations about blacks, whites, and the kicking game?

michael farris said...

Have the rules changed? Shouldn't it be the last play (or do kick offs count as plyas?) IIRC if time runs out during scoring play, the scoring team still has to kick off to the other team (with 0.00 on the clock and unless the other team scores the game is over with that play)

Anonymous said...

Sweet.

I certainly agree with the opposing coach's move. Play the game to win; don't act like the game is a move in some larger strategic competition.

And of course, accept the outcome either way.

You sound like a hack-a-Shaqer.

Back when I played high school ball, my coach didn't even foul at the end to extend games.

Jim O'Sullivan said...

In the immortal words of then-Jet coach Herm Edwards "YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!!!"

Eric said...

Heh heh. Job opening.

LDSonLSD said...

unfortunately there is no glory in JV and Freshman athletics. My basketball team went undefeated in JV and only lost one game Freshman year -- I wasn't on the team at that time, we killed them in the rematch when I played.

John Craig said...

Not quite sure what the moral of the story is. That the opposing coach should have been more conservative and gone for the sure title? Or that you admire the coach for his sporting/fighting spirit? Perhaps there is no moral and I am a fool for looking for one? Or did you just want to give some kudos to your son?

Bill said...

Bet you enjoyed that. Being a dad does have its rewards.

Ronduck said...

I was going to ask if your local paper covers high school football the way the East Valley Tribune does here in Mesa, but that would give away too much personal information.

Good game though.

Anonymous said...

If it's not on YouTube, did it really happen? Actually, your report was pretty exciting. You might be the white Jason Whitlock. I do have a couple of questions, though. What was the down and distance? Did the opposing team have any timeouts left? Seems like the coach could have taken another shot at the endzone. Special teams at the JV level is pretty shakey.

Steve Sailer said...

No, I'm not criticizing the opposing coach. At the JV level, with no playoffs on the line, playing to beat your rival on the last play of the season to go undefeated in the league is the right call.

As for more technical questions, such as whether they should have taken one more shot at the end zone:

It was first down and goal to go at the 9 yard line with 9 seconds left. I don't know if they had any time outs left. I believe the clock stopped temporarily to move the chains up, but would have started moving again if they had taken some time to get a play off. So, they called time out to settle down and decide what to do. That's was likely their last time out.

At a higher level, you would throw a quick pass into the end zone. If it's incomplete, you kick a field field goal with 2 seconds left. But this team had a strong running game and an iffy passing game. Two plays before, the quarterback had been sacked, seemingly ensuring a tie (the clock keeps running on a sack at this level), but a spectacular 25 yard run on the next play had brought them down to the 9. But 9 yards is too far to try to run it in with the danger of the clock running out (even if they had one more timeout, they might well not have been able to stop the clock).

So, I think the opposing coach made the right call.

Anonymous said...

This is the most fun entry on this blog in a few days.

beowulf said...

Football is a hell of a game. There are many lessons to be drawn from Steve's story.

To pick just one, going for the field goal is a low risk, high percentage play that could seal an undefeated season and the championship. But every once in a while, that freakin' Nassim Taleb (perfect name for a kicker) shows up with his Black Swan.

Off topic, I was just asked for book recommendations for a 9 year old boy who reads at the 5th grade level. His parents wants him to read more (and play video games less). However, the teacher's recommended reading list seems a bit, well, girlish. Any suggestions for books, fiction or nonfiction, that boys that age might be interested in?

Anonymous said...

So, I think the opposing coach made the right call.

Under those circumstances, I agree.

Anonymous said...

When I was that age, I loved Robert E. Howard and Burroughs. Robert E. Howard for his manly tough guys and Burroughs for his fantasy worlds.

There are some elements of Howard that are a little risqué for a nine year old but I didn't quite understand what he was writing about. Of course, kids are less sheltered now.

My granddad had me reading 'The Star Beast' by Heinlein when I was just a year younger. That was my first fantasy/scifi book and I never looked back.

gator chomp said...

I've only been reading this blog for a few months, so I had no idea that you were a football fan, Steve.

Do you notice what the top 5 teams in college football --
Alabama, Texas Tech, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma -- have in common?

They're all located in the dark red areas of the country based on the results of the presidential election (last year's champ LSU is located in the darkest section.)

You must be rubbing off on me. I've never noticed such things before. Hopefully USC will sneak into the championship game against Florida so we can talk some smack to one another.

Anonymous said...

When I was that age, I loved Robert E. Howard and Burroughs. Robert E. Howard for his manly tough guys and Burroughs for his fantasy worlds.

I assume you're not talking about William Burroughs :)

Anonymous said...

"This kind of rule perversion is common in tournament sports. In the NHL, the tie rules will someday cause both teams to play for a tie to lock out a third team from a playoff spot."

The NHL does not have tie games anymore. If no one scores after a five minute sudden-death overtime there is a shootout to determine a winner.

However the league does have a strange point system. In a game that ends in regulation the winning teams gets two points in the standings while the loser gets zero points. In a game that goes into overtime though, the winner gets two points but the loser gets one. This means that overtime games have a greater weight on the standings than games ending in regulation. What makes the most sense to me is a 3-2-1 system. That is, award 3 points to a regulation winner, 2 points to an overtime/shootout winner, and 1 point to an overtime/shootout loser.

ben tillman said...

Shades of Tom Osborne going for the win in the 1981 Orange Bowl. He went for 2 points instead of tying the game and hoping the voters would have still given his Huskers, the only unbeaten team in the land, the championship.

You mean the 1984 Orange Bowl, but that does come to mind.

Anonymous said...

I was at the '88 Sugar Bowl when Auburn was down 16-13 to Syracuse and Pat Dye chose to kick a field goal for the tie rather than go for the win (this was before college football had OT). It didn't gain anything for Auburn, but robbed Syracuse of a perfect season and a claim on the national title which Notre Dame won that year. As an Auburn fan, it was probably the most shameful moment in the program's history, and fans walked out very quietly, some with looks of disgust on their faces. The "kissing your sister" metaphor is apt.

Anonymous said...

"At a higher level, you would throw a quick pass into the end zone. If it's incomplete, you kick a field field goal with 2 seconds left."

No, not necessarily. Many coaches would elect to kick it, and if the snap was bad, they would have the holder eat it and try again on the next down. I'm also pretty sure that the rules say that if the kick is blocked and the kicking team recovers, they retain possession and can try again ( I recall this happening in a Browns-Steelers game).

jeff said...

I'm also pretty sure that the rules say that if the kick is blocked and the kicking team recovers, they retain possession and can try again ( I recall this happening in a Browns-Steelers game).

I think if the kicking team recovers the football, without the opposing team touching the ball after the block, then the ball is dead and it's the opposing team's ball at the spot of the recovery. Now, if the opposing team touched the ball after the block and then the kicking team recovers, then the kicking team retains possession. Or maybe that scenario only applies when a team is kicking on 4th down. Are there no refs who read iSteve?

They're all located in the dark red areas of the country based on the results of the presidential election (last year's champ LSU is located in the darkest section.)

Every state with a university located in the SEC or Big 12 conference went Republican, with the exception of Colorado and Florida, which is misleading considering the vast majority of Obama's support was in the Miami area, home to the University of Miami of the Atlantic Coast Conference. North Carolina and Viriginia, home to 6 universities with teams in the ACC, split off from the "solid South" voting block and went Democrat.

Most people are adverse to this kind of reductionism, but Sailer has been generally sympathetic to such an interpretation.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

I agree with the opposing team's coach and his decision to go for the win rather than the tie.

Either way the kids learned a valuable lesson (although this way it's more likely to stick with them): the most emotionally satisfying choice is not necessarily the wisest. A JV coach can get away with it. A college coach, in similar circumstances, would be crucified.

Oh well. I'm still pissed about not getting to see the Troy v. LSU game. And I'm pissed that Navy botched the last play on a near comeback against Notre Dame.

ben tillman said...

I think if the kicking team recovers the football, without the opposing team touching the ball after the block, then the ball is dead and it's the opposing team's ball at the spot of the recovery.

That's only if the ball crosses the line of scrimmage. If it remains behind the line of scrimmage, it's live, and the offense can recover it and run it, pass it, or even kick it again. Same thing on a punt.

I actually saw the Wyoming punter recover a blocked punt against Ole Miss a few years ago and pick it up and punt it 50 yards down the field, all perfectly legal.

Rob said...

Enjoy every minute of it... Time flies fast. Watched my own kid play right through collge and Monday morning QB'd alot of games...LOL