Toward the end of Reed's state semifinal football playoff win Saturday at Manogue, a Liberty defensive back dove to the ground in an attempt to intercept a Reed pass. At the time, Liberty led 31-28 with under a minute to go. An interception would have essentially sealed a Liberty win.
The officiating crew huddled up to discuss the sequence. It broke the huddle and ruled the pass incomplete. Reed threw a touchdown pass on the next play to regain the lead with 30 seconds left and held on for a 35-31 win.
Liberty coaches were irate after the game, feeling the officials had stolen the game from the Patriots by ruling the aforementioned pass incomplete and not a pick. LHS head coach Rich Muraco said as much in postgame interviews.
Liberty fans and players took to the social media world to discredit Reed's win, but like it or not, Reed advances to play Bishop Gorman in the DI state final Saturday in Las Vegas.
Sunday afternoon I got a text from Reed defensive line coach Lawrence Quadrio. In the text was a photo of the play, a still shot from Reed's game film. The shot clearly shows the ball hitting the ground, thus the officials got it right. It was indeed an incomplete pass. Raiders head coach Ernie Howren said you could even see the ball wobble while it hit the ground as the Liberty defensive back unsuccessfully tried to secure the football.
I'm sure by now some of you have seen the photo. I posted it to my Twitter account, @SparksSportsGuy. One guy even posted a comment on the game story of the Las Vegas Sun's website, telling southern Nevada prep football fans to check out the photo.
Here's the part where I had to laugh. One commenter accused me of 'photoshopping' the image. Wow, like I care that much about building up added credibility to Reed's win that I'd take the time to 'photoshop' the picture.
That's a good one! I mean, I've been told a time or two that I have no life, but if I had actually done that, I'd have to agree with them. Luckily for all of us, I've got better things to do with my time. Heck, if I was going to 'photoshop' the image I'd have at least put a tacky mustache and glasses on the kid.
The commenter's reasoning for not believing the photo was real was because he said the Liberty DB's gloves were 'blood red' and in the photo the color of the gloves are washed out. So obviously, I faked the photo, because colors in photos always look exactly like they do in real life ... yeah, not so much. If they did, none of us would have photos where we sport those cool red dots in our eyes that make us look like crazed demons.
A separate commenter said, 'Never believe a picture from a guy with Bigfoot on his twitter page.' Easy guy, just because I've got a sasquatch background pic on my Twitter profile, doesn't mean my credibility is compromised. OK, that may not be my best defense, but I've got a soft spot in my heart for the squatch. What can I say? Obviously, that guy's never seen one.
Ultimately, here's what I believe. The photo Coach Quad sent me is legitimate and Reed players and coaches have every right to feel like they won that game fair and square. They played cleaner and smarter than their Liberty counterparts.
*I know some in the Reed camp were upset over Coach Muraco's postgame comments.
“That’s an awful call,” Muraco said of the non-interception. “It was definitely an interception; I saw it. His arms were under it. They (officials) didn’t see the ball hit the ground, or else that ref would have come running in with his hands waving and pointing to the ground. It’s awful that they let a mechanical refereeing error ultimately cost the game.”
That comment was used in the Las Vegas Review-Journal's game story. I was there when Muraco said that, but I chose not to use it in my game story. I didn't think it was that important to my game story and it was a frustrated coach venting after a tough loss.
I know Muraco really believed those words when he said them. Maybe he's seen game film and photos since and has changed his mind. Still, I heard multiple Reed supporters irate about Muraco's postgame comments.
Keep them in perspective. Many coaches, who had invested thousands of hours with their student athletes during offseason workouts and in-season practice, would have been just as frustrated if not more than Muraco was had they been put in the same situation.
A year ago, Reed coach Ernie Howren watched his team lose at Carson on the final play of the game after officials ruled a Carson player caught a touchdown. But many, including me, believed the receiver never had control after Reed safety Austin Warner laid a mean hit on the kid, jarring the ball loose.
To his credit, Howren took the high road and never criticized the call or officials, and believe me, he had every right to. I know Howren believed Muraco's comments were questionable. When Howren says 'I'd have never have said those things,' I believe him because the proof is in the pudding.
However, that doesn't make Muraco a bad guy. It just means Howren has amazing self control. I probably wouldn't be able to keep my mouth shut if I felt my team was blatantly robbed of a state semifinal win because of an officiating error and neither would a majority of other coaches.
*The bottom line is Reed should feel good about its win over Liberty and its season. No matter how much Liberty supporters spew negativity and hate on Reed, they can't take away the Raiders' win and they can't change the fact Reed will be suiting in the state final while their Patriots only sit at home or watch.
Dan Eckles is the Sparks Tribune's Managing-Sports Editor. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org