Thanksgiving leftovers

We finally got rid of the stinky Thanksgiving leftovers in our refrigerator last night, so here are a few Thanksgiving-weekend leftovers I've been meaning to get rid of:

1. Collins senior Darian Dugle said it best following the Titans' 20-15 loss at Franklin-Simpson last Friday night in the Class 4A football state semifinals:

"It was hard enough playing against [the Wildcats], we had to play against the officials too," he told me.

2. FYI: The man holding the down box during that game was the worst behaved member of a chain gang I've ever seen in my 15 years of covering high school football. While chain gang crew members aren't part of the officiating crew they are supposed to at least act unbiased during the course of a game. Now that's pretty difficult in high school football these days because often members of the chain crew have sons who play the team too, and that was never more obvious than last Friday night. The "box guy," whose son was a wide receiver for Franklin-Simpson, interjected himself into the game early on, and often. In all honesty this guy wasn't without provocation - some fans along the fence line behind the Collins bench definitely egged the guy on, especially once he started responding to them - but there's only one way to describe his behavior throughout the game - ugly. He said some things that I can't re-print in a family newspaper, and wouldn't even feel right repeating in this blog. Early in the game he tattled on those fans along the fence line to a police officer. Ironically, though, later in the game it was that same police officer who came up to him and told him to keep his attention toward the field after one of his many exchanges with fans.

3. Also FYI: Monday afternoon Collins assistant coach Mike Cresap and I watched, and re-watched (Titans Coach Jerry Lucas still can't bring himself to watch it), the key play - the Wildcats' "hook and ladder" for a touchdown on fourth-and-long from the Collins 22 - from that state semifinal several times in the Titans' fieldhouse. From the best I could tell the lateral from Jerrell Wickware to his cousin, Darrius Wickware, was indeed a backwards one (something I wasn't convinced of on the field). However when the lateral hits the ground the line judge on the Franklin-Simpson sideline comes running in and throws his bean bag down where the football met the field. And although there was no audio on the TV we watched the repaly on, that movement by the official would at least indicate that he had blown his whistle. Now even if that whistle was inadvertent the play should have been dead at that point (at the Collins 17-yard line - about 5 yards short of the first down). The Titans then would have taken possession still leading 9-7. Whether or not they would've driven downfield for another TD (which would have given them a 16-7 lead and control of the game), as they did after the Wildcats' controversial touchdown, we'll never know.

Unfortunately that wasn't the only mistake the officials appeared to make during the game. There were more than a few questionable "spots" of the ball and one key lack of measurement after a fourth-down run by the Titans in Franklin-Simpson territory. No matter what the outcome of a game like this is, or was, all you hope for going in is good officiating. As I've said before I hate to criticize the officials in any event I cover, because I'm sure they are trying their best, but in some cases it's too hard to ignore. This game was one of those cases, but I'll keep it simple...the officials in last Friday night's Class 4A state semifinal between Collins and Franklin-Simpson were not good.

4. While there were plenty of unimpressive things (i.e. the officiating and the behavior of at least one member of the chain gang crew) about last Friday night's game, the most impressive thing was the kids. It's amazing to me some times just how resilient high school kids can be, and how better-behaved they are in some situations than adults. 

After that devastating loss sure there were tears shed by some Titans, but within 10 or 15 minutes after the game, several were smiling and taking the advice of their coach (afterward Lucas told his team: "Be sad, but celebrate what we've done this season and last season.). Dugle, Austin Nakatani and Joseph Fawns took a group picture on the field with their girlfriends, and a few minutes after that several senior Titans were in their locker room talking about how they were glad they wouldn't have to get blown out by Highlands in their last high school game. And while I'm sure they would've been singing a different tune had they beaten Franklin-Simpson it just goes to show how adaptable high school kids can be. Losing that game was a travesty, but it wasn't a tragedy (something the community experienced just the week before). There are plenty of lessons to be learned from high school athletics, and some times high school kids aren't the only ones who can learn them.