High school football has seen a tremendous uptick in the number of teams competing over the past twenty years. In that time approximately twenty new programs have been added to the growing ranks. With those additions come some growing pains as many of the pigskin newcomers struggle to find consistent success. Of course, there is also the natural fluctuation of talent that comes even among established programs, which is the crux of high school athletics.
The 2014 Maine high school football season got off to an inauspicious start for those seeking balance among the 76 varsity programs state wide. If we learned anything from week 1, it’s there is a clean delineation between the teams at the top, middle, and bottom of their respective leagues. In Eastern Maine alone, of the nineteen games played, thirteen were decided by four touchdowns or more. Many contests were foregone conclusions before the two squads took a break for halftime.
Of course, as scores mount there are always those in the crowd who offer their righteous indignation over what they feel is becoming too big a margin of victory. “They still have starters in the game”, they’ll say, sometimes even when the contest hasn’t reached intermission. Accusations of running up the score cry out from some. The soapbox isn’t high enough for some of these holier than thou folks who wrote the book on sportsmanship.
That being said, no one enjoys a lopsided game. While the team that comes out ahead in such a contest undoubtedly feels better than their opponent, I’m sure if you asked any of the victors, they would much prefer playing in a contest where they had to give maximum effort for four quarters.
As far as dealing with a game that’s “getting out of hand”, each sport seems to have unwritten rules in proper etiquette for such situations. The problem is no two people seem to agree completely on those unwritten rules. Football coaches over the years have done an excellent job policing themselves in these situations. I’ve witnessed my share of blowouts over the years, yet on very few occasions have I felt a team was intentionally trying to stick it to the other.
While coaches are competitive, there also seems to be a sense of brotherhood for the most part amongst the state’s high school football coaches. Coaches know what a hard game football is and generally speaking have a mutual respect for everyone involved in the game.
So, before you opine on the latest one-sided contest, as there are sure to be plenty more prior to the year’s conclusion, here are a few things to consider:
Football differs from other sports in so many ways. Let’s start with the number of games. While baseball and basketball players take part in 16-18 regular season contests per season, football is just once a week for eight to nine weeks. Is it fair to ask the best players on your team to prepare hard all week and only get less than half a game? For teams contending for a championship, there will likely be more than one blowout during the season.
Secondly, in a one-sided game the onus is really on the team that is behind to wave the white flag and substitute first. When this happens the squad out in front by a large margin will likely reciprocate and empty their bench as well. While a team maybe strong, especially in smaller schools, those really good teams may not be particularly deep. Because football is a collision sport, the coach with the lead may be wary about putting a young, inexperienced freshman up against a bigger senior.
Football already offers a great deal of opportunity for most players to participate, more so than many other sports. The players who don’t get much time in the varsity game usually have a J.V. contest to participate in on Monday. Coaches aren’t going to give the majority of time in a varsity game to the second and third string only to have them turn around in 2-3 days and have to play in the J.V. game.
Fans tend to get worked up more about blow-outs in football because it is a collision sport and also the nature of scoring is different than in other sports. Of the major team sports, football gives the most points for the ultimate goal, that of scoring a touchdown. Think about it: we generally think nothing of a team winning 8-0 in soccer but a 56-0 football game is a travesty.
Players and coaches for the most part are resilient. Sure, it stings at the time to be on the short end of such a contest but most dust themselves off, regroup, and strive to get better. After all, falling down and getting back up is part of life, isn’t it. Besides, just because you are down doesn’t mean you are always destined to be so.
Take MCI for instance. Two years ago, they were the nail being pounded into the ground, going 0-8 and losing many of those games by a healthy margin. Instead of wallowing and feeling sorry for themselves the Huskies spent an offseason of committed conditioning and weight training. The work paid off, MCI is now the hammer and is a championship contender.
Many spectators who attend games each weekend could learn from this example of perseverance.