From the Sidelines

Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2006

Growing up, I played on perhaps the worst youth soccer team in Delaware history. Our team didn't win a game for three whole years. Teams from throughout northern Delaware and the east coast would take out their week of frustration on us.

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In our fourth season, we finally figured it out and finished second in the state. Ironically, I didn't see as much playing time that year. But that's another story for another day.

The point is, my heart can't help going out to the team getting shellacked, as with Lathrop in Friday's 69-6 defeat to Juneau-Douglas.

The Malemutes played hard but simply didn't have the athleticism or experience to keep up with the Crimson Bears, who appeared in prime form.

However, it wasn't like Juneau-Douglas was deliberately trying to run up the score.

The defending state champs didn't run any double-reverses, flea-flickers or other trick plays. Throughout the game, the Crimson Bears did the classy thing and ran a vanilla offense.

Both teams were very respectful of each other throughout the game. There were no unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and the coaching staffs share a mutual respect for one another.

While it pleases a coach to watch his team execute with precision and power, it also leads to some awkward moments when the score continues to escalate.

Nate Wilson rushed for two second-half TDs on straightahead runs, while lineman Faifo Levale rumbled and juked his way to a 45-yard score in the fourth quarter.

Players will always run hard - anything less is disrespecting the game. However, a lop-sided game can be tough to watch at times.

"I wasn't too comfortable with that aspect of the game," Chalmers said Friday of the lopsided score. "You don't expect a tackle to take the ball 40, 50 yards for a touchdown, so that's why you give it to them. You don't want to rub it in."

These types of scores happen in football, sometimes. The most famous pigskin pummeling took place in 1916, when Georgia Tech beat Cumberland College 222-0.

Fortunately in high school football, there's a stop gap for these kind of situations.

The Alaska School Activities Association joined the majority of state high school athletic governing bodies nationwide this year by implementing a version of the mercy rule. If a team leads by 35 points or more in the fourth quarter, then the clock will stop for nothing but injuries.

It's a good rule, but doesn't go far enough in my opinion.

Most states start the blowout rule after halftime.

This rule isn't made to save egos or coddle children. It's to hasten the inevitable. At this point in the game, one team has clearly established dominance and proved they can score at will.

Had this been a heavyweight fight, the referee would have ended the bout in the second round.

This isn't because anyone acted in a disrespectful manner towards each other or deliberately tried to humiliate each other. The final score is simply a result of one team's vast superiority over another.

Lathrop graduated a number of key players from last year's team and is working in a number of young, inexperienced players into their program.

JDHS, on the other hand, appears to be in midseason form. New players from the junior varsity, the Juneau Youth Football League and first-time athletes played like seasoned veterans.

When these two forces collide on the gridiron, lop-sided scores can arise.

When that happens, it's up to the sport's governing body to do what's best for the game.

It's not the players fault for running hard, or the coaches fault for preparing their teams. The state, however, should step in on behalf of the overmatched opponent.

The ASAA directors took a step in the right direction in their last meeting by adopting the new rule by a 6-2 vote.

Now it's time to take it one step further and employ a running clock the moment a team hits 35 or 40 points. If a team fights back and narrows the margin, then revert back to the old clock.

This way will lead to a lot less awkward situations.

• Tim Nichols, sports editor, can be reached at sports@juneauempire.com.



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