A couple weeks ago, the Gig Harbor High football played on the road against the woeful Stadium Tigers. Up 33-0, the Tides took a timeout with one second left and ran a 69-yard hook-and-ladder play for the touchdown.
Head coach Aaron Chantler defended the decision afterward, saying the Tides wanted to work on executing that play in a two-minute situation.
While that’s understandable, the game was firmly in hand, and running a hook-and-ladder felt a little excessive.
Chantler also made the argument that if the Tides could score 33 in the first half, then the Tigers could score 33 in the second half.
Theoretically, he’s right. But, let’s be honest, that wasn’t going to happen.
And that brings us to the question: When is it OK to run up the score? I think it depends on the level of competition.
In the NFL, feel free to run it up to 100-0, if the defense is going to let you. Those are grown men who are getting paid a lot of money, and if they can’t handle it, they need to be in a different profession.
In college and high school, though, the guidelines are a little different. Especially in high school.
Coaches at that level have very little control over which players they get to work with, and they make the best with what they have. Sportsmanship is important at every level, but it’s especially important with high-schoolers.
Those four years are some of the most important in a young man or woman’s life. That’s when they begin to create an identity for themselves. They should learn the value of sportsmanship, teamwork and respect. They shouldn’t get humiliated by teams that outmatch them.
Chantler’s play call wasn’t egregious, but it probably wouldn’t have hurt to take a knee and head into the locker room up by 33. I also understand he wanted to work on the two-minute drill and execute plays in time-sensitive situations, but doing it at the expense of a bad team probably isn’t the right way to do it.
In Chantler’s defense, he pumped the brakes in the second half, content to run the ball and leave with a 54-7 win.
Chantler is also faced with a situation that’s becoming more common in today’s football landscape, which is trying to balance running a no-huddle, high-speed offense and not run up the score. Games provide a valuable opportunity to improve, and Chantler wants his offense firing on all cylinders for the final stretch of the season.
While scrimmaging is always possible in practice, it doesn’t compare to facing different looks, defenses and teams in a game atmosphere. It’s unfortunate that Stadium got in their way, because the Tides want to fly, and games against teams like the Tigers give them an excellent chance to perfect their fast-paced offense.
With that in mind, I don’t see a problem with a 40-0 halftime lead, especially considering the number of plays the Tides run per game. If Stadium can’t stop them, then that’s too bad, but it’s not Gig Harbor’s fault.
However, taking a timeout with one second left and running a trick play is a different story. (Chantler insists he called it was five seconds and the referee didn’t notice. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.)
In the end, I don’t think it’s really a big deal. Gig Harbor easily won, and it didn’t matter if they won by 30 or 70. It didn’t affect the outcome of the game.
However, it’s important to keep sportsmanship in mind. As the great Washington State University broadcaster Bob Robertson says, “Always be a good sport. Be a good sport all ways.”Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at jon.manley@ gateline.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.