Sunday, September 21, 2008

High School Choke Job

After attending a high school football game two weeks ago, I came up with the following fundamental rule of high school offensive strategy: Offenses, in general, should not throw anything but high percentage passes—nothing over 10 yards—unless the receiver is wide open by 20 yards or more on a blown coverage.

Friday night, 900 miles away, this rule was proved out once again. I arrived at La Canada High School with about 4:30 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Spartans down by three. They soon recovered a fumble in the Glendale Dyanmiters’ territory. They slowly made their way towards the end zone as I made my way towards the press box. When I arrived at the press box, the Spartan offense had arrived at the 4 yard line with a first-and-goal. Obvious strategy here was to run 3 times and score or kick the tying field goal. La Canada was smart enough to run twice before attempting a third down pass play that was fortunately not intercepted. Then, apparently lacking faith in their linebacker/kicker, they went for it on fourth down and scored. I grabbed the mic from Mo$ and announced the score: La Canada 21, Glendale 17.

The time-keeper was impressed with my voice until it became obvious that that voice had clearly jinxed the home squad. With 1:29 left in the game, the Spartans seemed to have a great chance at their first victory of the season. And now, my fundamental rule of high school defensive strategy: Spend 80 percent of your practice time teaching fundamentals. Glendale took the ensuing kickoff to the 50-yard-line on the strength of numerous missed tackles by the Spartans. One play later, with 1:15 left in the game, Glendale called a screen pass. At least five Spartan players stood about five yards downfield from the receiver. All of them touched him, but none of them wrapped up and tackled him. Result: Touchdown Dynamiters. Glendale 24, La Canada 21.

Even though the situation seemed bleak, the Spartans still managed to return the kickoff to the 40-yard line. A couple well executed short slants and/or screens and a few lucky runs and there’s an outside chance to tie the game on a field goal. Instead, coach calls a 20-yard Hail Mary which falls straight into the hands of the Dynamiters middle linebacker for a pick-6. Glendale 29, La Canada 21.

As the players walked off the field, the respective bands of each team provided one additional rule of high school football: Bad fight songs lose games. The Glendale fight song was a peppy, upbeat song that closely resembled the fight song of the Helena High mighty Bengals. The La Canada song was a slow, sleepy excuse for any sort of fight. It more appropriately would have been heard in a funeral procession. Of course, given the result of the game, perhaps that was the idea.

The HHS Bengals, averaging 279 rushing
yards per game, clearly understand the
fundamental rule of high school offensive strategy.

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