After Phoenix Mountain Pointe senior Ryan Blom was taken from the field by ambulance in the final minutes of last week’s 55-21 loss to Chandler Hamilton, several questions arose regarding the best course of action when a game gets out of hand.
While Blom’s injury (he suffered a concussion and will have to wear a neck brace for anywhere from a few days up to two weeks) could have occurred at any time, it’s fair to wonder what’s gained by continuing a game that was 42-14 at halftime?
Such contests are not an aberration in high school football. This season, there have been 25 games involving East Valley teams decided by 40 or more points, 11 by 50 or more and three by at least 60.
It’s an impressive feat if you’re the victor, but does any good come from it?
As long as the opposition isn’t running up the score with its first string, most coaches say yes. With varsity rosters commonly 40 or more deep (at least at the 4A and 5A level), it’s an opportunity to get second- and third-string players some game experience.
At some point “you’ve got to allow those kids who practice every day a chance to play,” said Mesa Skyline coach Pete Jonovich, who this year has three wins by 40 or more points but two years ago lost twice by such a margin.
Gilbert Higley coach Jim Beall, whose Knights beat Flagstaff Coconino 61-0 two weeks ago, agreed.
“Those kids work hard on the scout team,” he said “These are the guys that make us better. People don’t look at that. . . . They’re doing a great job, so you’re hoping they have that opportunity to get some playing time. It’s going to be beneficial for them.”
That’s the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s line of thinking as well, and the reason it no longer uses a mercy rule to end games early. Instead, all classes play with a running clock when there are leads of 42 points or more.
“In the lower conference, sometimes you would have a game over at halftime and it just seemed like it happened at homecoming. So that wasn’t good,” AIA commissioner of officials Gary Whelchel said. “This is a little better. You get an opportunity to get kids in the game that don’t play normally.”
But what about the team on the losing end?
“I’ve been on the other side getting beat 56-0,” Beall said. “I don’t want guys to lay down. I don’t want them kicking a field goal on first down. Shoot, play the game. Let us compete. If we get beat, we get beat.”
NEW MOON RISING
While I laughed hysterically the first time I heard anyone use the term “the decider” (oh, that President Bush), I can think of no better title for Gilbert Higley’s Erick Moon.
The senior receiver/defensive back isn’t a workhorse for the No. 2 Knights — he has only 22 offensive touches through five games — but when the ball is in his hands you can bet a game-changing or game-ending play is at hand.
“He’s a big-play maker,” running back Tito Gonzalez said. “He steps it up when we need it the most.”
Here’s a rundown:
• Aug. 31 vs. Cave Creek Cactus Shadows: Moon’s interception in the third quarter sets up Higley’s only scoring drive, which he completes with at 51-yard TD reception. Higley falls 7-6 after missing the extra point.
• Sept. 7 vs. Tempe McClintock: After the Chargers tie the game at 7 in the fourth quarter, Moon returns the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for the game-winning touchdown. He then intercepts a pass on the next play from scrimmage to help seal the Knights’ 13-7 victory.
• Sept. 14 at Phoenix Washington: With Higley clinging to a nine-point lead and less than four minutes remaining, Moon picks off a pass in the end zone to end the Rams’ threat. Higley prevails 28-12.
• Sept. 21 vs. Flagstaff Coconino: The Knights cruise to a 61-0 victory, but Moon scores a game-high two touchdowns, including one on an 85-yard kickoff return.
• Sept. 28 at Phoenix Moon Valley: With Higley in danger of trailing for only the third time this season, Moon comes up with a pick on the Knights’ 5-yard-line to keep the game scoreless. Higley responds with 30 unanswered points en route a 36-6 win.
When asked about his uncanny ability, Moon couldn’t come up with a concrete explanation. But when things are going this well, it’s probably best not to look too deep.
“I guess I’m kind of lucky,” he said. “I don’t get the ball that much. When I do, I try to make something big happen.”
Howl about that!
The first eight years of varsity football at Mesa Skyline have been an uphill battle, but at the midway point of this season, it appears the Coyotes are on the verge of a breakthrough year. At 4-1, Skyline is already off to the best start in school history, and with five games remaining it needs only one more win to establish a new high for victories in a season.
Out for revenge
As if homecoming and facing a region foe weren’t motivation enough, Mesa Dobson will be pumped up an additional dose tonight when it faces Mesa Westwood.
The Mustangs’ motto this year is “finish,” and it’s fair to say that adage was adopted as a result of last year’s game with the Warriors.
Leading 13-7 heading into the final quarter, Dobson allowed a game-tying touchdown with three seconds remaining in regulation. The Mustangs then lost 20-19 in overtime when their two-point conversion attempt failed.
That loss, in the second-to-last game of the year, ultimately kept them home for the postseason.
If the playoffs began today, four of five teams from the 5A-I Fiesta and East Valley regions, and all teams from the 5A-II Pima, Southern and 3A East regions would be in the playoffs. Gilbert Mesquite (Fiesta) and Mesa (E.V.) would just miss out to lower-rated champs from the Metro and Southern A regions, who earn automatic berths.
“(The players) kind of wanted to send a little bit of a message to the 5A-II people that when you move down here it’s not a cakewalk.”
john sanders, Scottsdale Saguaro coach, after his No. 1-ranked Sabercats defeated previously unbeaten Paradise Valley 35-7.