Now, the robbers did not break into a bank and escape with bags of money or even heist thousands of dollars worth of precious pearls and diamonds from a jewelry store. Nope, instead the burglars snuck onto the football field at Carson High, crept up behind the Reed High School football team and pick-pocketed a victory, right out of the Raiders’ hands.
After Reed got off to a slow start against the Senators, watching Carson build a 26-17 advantage midway through the third quarter, the Raiders mounted a comeback en route to snaring a 30-26 lead with 2:05 left in the game. Not willing to give up on a Homecoming win, Carson drove the length of the field with a crisp two-minute drill to put itself in prime position to steal the game back from the Raiders. Unfortunately for the Senators, the referees beat them to the punch.
With 0:01 left on the game clock, and the Senators at Reed’s 16-yard line, Carson quarterback Garrett Schafer rifled a pass to an open Matt Nolan. Catching the ball at the 1-yard line, Nolan turned and took a step toward the end zone. Crashing down on the play, Reed’s Austin Warner delivered a shoulder into Nolan that probably has receivers throughout the local prep world waking up in the middle of the night dripping sweat. The nightmarish hit stopped Nolan’s momentum at the goal line and sent the ball flying out of his hands and bouncing along the turf. Unsure whether to call a touchdown or incompletion, the officials huddled and conferred before signaling a touchdown, nearly a minute later, giving Carson a 32-30 victory.
After the game, Reed head coach Ernie Howren took the high road and said the last play and subsequent call did not decide the outcome of the game. Howren pointed to a number of moments that the Raiders failed to capitalize on, any of which could have changed the course of the contest, which was very true. However, it did not take away from the fact that despite Reed’s handful of missed opportunities, the Raiders still managed to put themselves in position to walk away with a win before the refs took the game into their own hands on the final play, in fact deciding the outcome.
I am not saying that officiating a game is an easy task, in any sport or at any level. And with the speed at which the Raiders and Senators were flying around the field on Friday night, specifically on the final play of the game, I would not have wanted to be in the shoes of the officials. The referees had to make a decision on a bang-bang play that, had you blinked, you would have been left asking what just happened.
Unfortunately, I think some of the referees may have done just that at the exact moment that Warner collided with Nolan because they got the call wrong. According to the official National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rulebook, under Rule 8, Section 2, Article 1.a, a touchdown is scored when: “…a runner advances from the field of play so that the ball penetrates the vertical plane of the opponent’s goal line.”
The NFHS rulebook also states under Rule 2, Section 4, Article 1 that a catch: … is the act of establishing player possession of a live ball which is in flight, and first contacting the ground inbounds while maintaining possession of the ball.” So, let’s look back at that last play.
Did Nolan establish possession of the ball? Check.
Did Nolan contact the ground inbounds? Check.
Did Nolan maintain possession of the ball? Uh-oh.
While the referees got the call wrong, the win is in the record books for Carson, and the loss for Reed. Both teams have probably moved on from the game, focusing on improvement and their next opponents. For the players, they have to answer to their coaches, and the coaches have to look themselves in the mirror, but my question is: Who holds the officials, that are still out on the loose, responsible for their performance?
Damian Tromerhauser is a Sparks Tribune sports reporter. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org