Monday, October 13, 2008

A Weekend Of Non-Stop Football

I read this morning that Avondale High School football coach Steven Deutsch was quoted in today's Detroit Free Press as saying no one plays defense in high school football anymore. The Yellow Jackets defeated tough-luck Hazel Park this past Friday with a 34-yard touchdown on the game's final play by a 53-52 count. That 100+ point tally was one of a handful of near triple-digit games this past weekend in metro Detroit.

I'm not certain that's true as much as high school football has evolved with the collegiate game in leaps and bounds on the offensive side of the ball. Power-I formations? Yeah, right. Off-tackle? Maybe once in a while. More and more, though, it's traps, sweeps, veer and several variations that feature and specialize in the single-wing offense. Nowadays, when you see four-to-five receiver sets, I half prepare for a run or short screen to a halfback as an official working the wing or in the back judge's position.

The bottom line is prep defenses can no longer gear to stop the run or pass exclusively, and with the proliferation of passing camps, quarterback schools, weight, speed and skill training, how can a defense keep up with the expansion of the typical offensive playbook, multiplied by the power of three, in high school football today?

Fight The Good Fight? An ugly donnybrook nearly came to fruition this past Saturday before the kickoff of a small college football game when the home team and visiting team were both waiting to take the field, poised from opposite endzones. By rule, when both teams refuse to go onto the field before their opponent, the home team is required to go first. So the hosts thundered onto the turf, went 100 yards into the opposite endzone and engaged in a testosterone-powered shout-down with their opponents that was quickly addressed by all seven officials.

No fists were thrown and one 15-yard unsportsmanlike foul was assessed to start the game, plus a delay-of-game before the game's first kickoff legally took place. Thankfully both teams marched to early touchdowns. That was important because once the game was tied 7-7, both teams settled down into a rhythm. However, that start was the precursor to 20 more penalties before the clock read 0:00.

That's the reality of officiating a hotly-contested game with first place on the line.

Forfeit Ends Polar Bear Season: Highland Park High was a no-show on Friday night at Dearborn Edsel Ford last week. This meant no walk-up ticket sales, concession money, program or spirit gear sales, either. Hopefully it wasn't homecoming for the Thunderbirds, which would be the end of a lot of memories for the Edsel Ford student body as well.

It could be called admirable that Highland Park head coach Cedric Dortch had the stones to make a tough decision to deliver a message, but in these economic times, that money is vital for some of these schools and the memories of a high school football season's game cannot be replaced, either. The coach's decision was reported within this morning's edition of The Detroit News.
I never like forfeits in high school football. One, finding a replacement game in nearly impossible for the offended school. Two, the money that one home football game generates cannot be found elsewhere.

Ironically, all three forfeited games remaing on the Highland Park schedule to end the season will either grant or greatly improve playoff chances for the three offended schools.
Edsel Ford qualified for the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history with the awarded victory on Friday, their sixth of the season. The Thunderbirds entered the game 5-1. Ypsilanti, Highland Park's Week Eight opponent, now sit at 5-3 with the forfeit win, and will have a chance to qualify for the playoffs if the purple 'n gold can defeat Dexter's Dreadnaughts (1-6 so far) in Week Nine.

Dearborn Fordson, ranked somewhere in the top five of nearly every state divisional classification poll after the Tractors' 24-14 win over rival Dearborn High, will end the season undefeated if they can beat the undefeated Southgate Anderson Titans this Friday in a huge match-up to decide the Mega Red championship. Because Highland Park was the Tractor opponent for Week Nine, Fordson is nearly guaranteed at least one home game in the playoffs no matter the result this Friday.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries, and is working on a follow-up title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries!

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