Page finished off Fort Defiance Window Rock with a 94-0 football victory Friday night, and nobody was celebrating.
Page coach Mitchell Stephens wasn’t excited about it being the second-most points scored in school history. Window Rock coach Wilbur Begay wasn’t thrilled that he basically rolled out a JV squad with so many players missing from injuries and eligibility reasons.
“No, I was not okay with it,” Begay wrote in an email when asked if he was OK with the score. “Eligibility and injuries hit us hard this past week and I took a JV squad up there. We barely had enough to make a varsity team.
“I understand it’s a varsity game but reserves should have been put in at halftime.”
Page was ahead 44-0 after one quarter and 64-0 at halftime. Heading into the final quarter, it was 86-0.
“We did play backups,” said Page coach Mitchell Stephens, who has one of the best teams in Page history with signature wins over Winslow, Payson and Chandler Valley Christian. “The JV kids played most of the second half. There were three defensive TDs and a special teams TD.
“We only ran 28 offensive plays, five were by a complete JV team. Ten different players scored touchdowns. This was not an attempt to pad stats or to show off.”
Three weeks after a postgame handshake turned confrontational at Maricopa following a 55-0 loss, Phoenix Central coach Jon Clanton remains on leave as the Phoenix Union High School District investigates.
Clanton felt Maricopa head coach Brandon Sanders was rubbing it in with a late touchdown scored against his team.
Clanton has not commented publicly since he was placed on leave.
Arizona high school football coaches were asked this week by azcentral sports to chime in on this conundrum of when is enough enough.
What is the proper etiquette?
When should coaches pull starters?
Should coaches tell backups wanting to feel like they’re part of team not to score?
“Those coaches that choose to let starters stay in a game, just don’t get it,” said Scottsdale Coronado first-year coach Curt LeBlanc, whose young, inexperienced team has been on the losing end of 49-0 and 62-12 scores. “If a kid gets injured late in a game trying to run up stats, how does a coach justify that to the player’s parents? To the other coach? To himself?”
As a general rule, coaches usually pull starters when it gets to the running clock (a 42-point lead), in some cases earlier. It depends at what point in the game it is.
Even before starters are pulled, the game plan is simplified.
There are unwritten rules:
– Stop passing the ball.
– No two-point conversions.
– No on-side kicks.
It becomes basic, ground and pound, work the clock, and get the game over with.
“Each coach handles these games differently, but most coaches genuinely try to take reasonable measures to display good sportsmanship during these situations,” said Phoenix St. Mary’s coach Tommy Brittain, who began his coaching career at Tempe Prep. “Once the running clock is employed, coaches should take measures to protect their own players and to respect the dignity of one’s opponent.
“One should look for opportunities to pull starters and let kids play who tend to not get a lot of playing time. I think it is unreasonable to ever tell any player not to score. In such games, it may be an athlete’s only opportunity to score a touchdown and, of course, everyone on the field wants to prove they belong.”
Parity has been a problem in Arizona high school sports. In 19 2A games played last week, the average score was 45-11.
In eight-man, coaches are having to start pulling starters in the first quarter because the game is so out of hand.
Superior won its first two games 50-0 and 54-0 and beat another team 72-15 in the first four games of its 1A season.
“Almost every game we play is a running clock in the first quarter or a few minutes into the second quarter,” Superior coach Ryan Palmer said. “That means that we may get only six to eight total offensive plays after halftime.”
How does Palmer handle this?
“I talk to the coach of the opposing team before the game,” he said. “I inform him that we will be playing our starters and second string in the first half, and will be working on our execution of our offense. Then, in the second half, I will run middle dive every play with our third string or even knee out and punt. Sometimes, I even allow our linemen to run the ball.
“The balance is difficult because you want your team to be ready for the playoffs but also want to demonstrate good sportsmanship. I tell my players that when they are on the field, they are to go 100 percent. My play calling and substitutions are the accommodation.”
Tempe McClintock coach Corbin Smith said coaches who are in it for the kids know how to handle blowouts the right way.
“You find out really quick which coaches are coaching to feed their egos and which coaches are in it to truly teach their kids how to be a man and win with humility and lose with dignity,” Smith said.
Phoenix South Mountain coach Mark Carter asks, “What is the difference between beating an opponent by 40 or 70?”
“Leaving your starters in can have dangerous consequences,” he said. “I’ve told my players that they need to have empathy. If they were on the other side of the score, how would they feel if someone just kept scoring on them? I just tell the subs that they can show us their ability without kicking a person while they’re down.
“I’ve been involved in a game where an opposing coach sent hits on players because they kept their starters in. They tried to make it football-related, but you could tell that it wasn’t. Why risk losing a star player? There’s too many reasons for a student-athlete not to play football. We don’t need to give them another reason to. Beating a team by 70 can and will break a kid’s spirit, and then that’s an opportunity lost to have a positive impact on a kid.”
The lack of parity in the current divisions of Arizona high school football makes lopsided scores a genuine, weekly problem, Brittain believes.
“I have experienced these games from both sides and they are unfortunate for all involved,” Brittain said. “True winners can feel very little pride in such victories and good losers can only feel humiliation by such defeats.”
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To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert at [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him at twitter.com/azc_obert.