Thoughts on the Durant Cougars’ game against Riverview, as seen from the sideline.
That Riverview-Durant game sure was something.
I know 13-12 isn’t the most enticing final score ever. Trust me, though, this was not some random Sunday afternoon Oakland Raiders-Arizona Cardinals game. If you went to Durant hoping for drama, reader, you definitely got it.
It didn’t look like it would be that way at first. Other than the missed opportunities on extra-point conversion attempts (which would have at least taken this game to overtime and at most given Durant the win), Durant’s offense and defense did pretty much exactly what it was designed to do. The offense feasted on the game clock, converted on third and fourth downs and put points on the board. The defense swarmed to the ball and took away just about every opportunity Riverview had for a big play. With the way the teams were playing, Durant had every right to be satisfied with their 12-0 halftime lead.
On that note, this game was also a prime example of the effect one or two big plays on offense can have on most games. Two of those big plays, the outliers among a heap of short gains throughout four quarters, got Riverview the lead for good. I don’t want to sound like I’m accusing the Sharks of playing bad football the whole time, especially since the offense started to click in the second half and you could see why this athletic group had just hung 37 points on Blake the week before. That trick play that gave the Sharks the lead was beautifully executed, too.
The other big play, which came first, was that 99-yard mad dash to the end zone on a lateral that came after a completed pass. That run was pretty awesome. Great effort by Riverview to play to the whistle and not give up early.
There’s just one thing.
I saw that play as it happened and wondered if the lateral was legal, but the lack of flags on the field led me to think it got out in time. Casey Lane, who takes photos for the Durant football team during its games, snapped a photo of the lateral exchange as it happened. I saw it on his camera while I was on the sideline and I saw it again when it was emailed to me later. I’ve included it with this column because this is as close as we’re gonna get to having NFL-style instant replay in high school in 2019. We can’t all sit together at 1916 and act like Cris Collinsworth with a telestrator, but we do have this.
In my opinion (and in my best Collinsworth voice), here’s a guy who at least had a knee down before the ball came out.
This is far from the first time I’ve checked my camera or someone else’s and saw something referees missed. I’ve seen it in just about every sport at every level. These things happen and I still do stand by my take from 2018 that people tend to be way too hard on referees for making human errors on bang-bang plays. That’ll happen until the robots take over more than just baseball. Don’t accuse Riverview of cheating, either — that play happened so quickly, it’s possible the quarterback didn’t even know he was down all the way like that when he fired off that lateral. That was an improvisation. You always want to take that kind of touchdown when you get it, especially when it’s a 99-yarder. If that happened for me in Madden, I’d probably yell louder than a strength coach on his sixth Red Bull and Superman off of my couch.
It’s just that this particular touchdown happened to be the difference-maker in the game, not some garbage-time touchdown that didn’t really affect a win or a loss either way. That hurts when it’s against you. It’s also something at least one referee should probably have seen.
This is why we need instant replay! I know that’s asking a lot right now but, if nothing else, we’ll always have our dreams. Anyway, I digress.
The ending of the game, with all of those blocked field goal attempts, was pretty nuts. I haven’t seen much like it in my years covering high school football. I can’t blame anyone for being confused watching it all unfold in the moment. Losses like that one are some of the hardest to swallow. At least in a blowout, you have time to prepare yourself for the “L” about to be taken.
When I talked to Durant players for the 2019 Football Guide (which I hope you’ve read by now), they all told me about a team-wide effort to stay positive all season long because negativity allegedly consumed them in 2018. This was one of those losses that’s easier than most to get angry about. But the Cougars would do well to look at the positives from Aug. 30 and go from there. The time of possession skewed heavily in their favor. They converted on a lot of important third and fourth-down situations and flashed several times the ability to make big plays. The defense plays with a chip on its shoulder you can see from a mile away and that kind of mean streak always comes in handy. There are real signs that this young team is finally figuring things out. If I were the one trying to lead a “power of positivity” movement in the locker room, I’d be bringing all that up on repeat.