Benton head coach Reynolds Moore “hates” Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. It’s safe to say the disdain grew tenfold this week.
Last Friday against Woodlawn, Moore and the Tigers were involved in their own version of DeflateGate – a buzzword created following the Patriots’ alleged deflation of footballs during January’s AFC Championship Game.
“I can’t even believe you are giving credence to this,” Moore told The Times. “If it hadn’t been for the Patriots and the Colts last year, nobody would be talking about this right now.”
Strangely, officials throwing out not one, not two, but three footballs supposedly lacking air late in the game at Benton was the second-craziest thing I’ve seen on a high school football field in the past two weeks.
On Oct. 16 in Coushatta, Calvary Baptist Academy head coach John Bachman was booted from a game for the first time in his career and then watched from behind a chain-linked fence as the officiating crew set out to prove a point.
The Cavaliers had a touchdown erased against Red River, their head coach booted and soon faced a second-and-84. Yes, an unthinkable 84 yards.
“That’s a first for me,” Bachman said.
It’s not even Halloween yet.
While these two instances are comical, the deflated football saga amid a quagmire in Benton was no laughing matter for Woodlawn head coach Jerwin Wilson.
The Knights noticed an issue when an incomplete pass landed on their sideline. Woodlawn made the officials aware the football in play may not be suitable. How flat was the pigskin?
“Ohhh,” Wilson said with a sarcastic chuckle. “It was significantly low.”
The officials then headed for Benton’s sideline to inform Moore of the situation, and to get a new ball. The referee eventually declared three footballs underinflated.
“We literally went through every football in the bag,” Moore said. “I kept grabbing them and he kept saying, ‘No,’ and threw it back.
My son is the ball boy, and due to the weather, he ran out and handed a different football to the umpire every single play. If something was wrong with it, you would think he would have noticed it.”
To further complicate the issue, every ball used in the game was inspected and approved by the officials prior to kickoff. And every football that was declared unfit for play was done so without the use of any device to measure PSI.
The saga was far from complete. Wilson wanted to know what the penalty would be. There is a flag for 12-men of the field and illegal substitution, surely there is a penalty for using an illegal football.
When Wilson spoke with a representative of the officials association, “he just quoted me the rule about proper PSI.”
Under the current rules, a team could intentionally use an illegal football without penalty until the issue is discovered, then just change to a football within the guidelines. Consequently, Wilson asked what measures would be taken to make sure this doesn’t become a problem in Louisiana.
“His response was: I already have my answer,” Wilson said. “They avoided the issue by quoting the rule. This is a gray area that needs to be addressed. It’s going to trickle down. One day it’s going to be bigger than Woodlawn – it will happen to one of the schools they care more about. That’s when something will be done.”
Despite the slop and the controversy, the Benton-Woodlawn game was a classic. There were 36 points scored in the fourth quarter and Benton prevailed 34-30.
Wilson’s frustration with the footballs was compounded by several third-down penalties in the waning moments he deemed suspect.
“I wish those guys could have been put in a fourth-down situation and forced to convert,” Wilson said.
The prep version of DeflateGate shouldn’t deter the Knights (6-3, 4-2 in District 1-4A). They are a legitimate player in district this season.
“They’ve responded each and every game,” Wilson said of his players. “When we got to Woodlawn, the games were never close. We’re building a program. They’ve come a long way, we just want to take the next step.”
Moore believes the weather could have been a factor with the footballs and is frustrated about the timing of the circumstances.
The Tigers (7-1, 5-0) are two wins away from securing an outright district championship.
“It’s very comical to me up to the point where I believe we’re being accused of cheating,” Moore said. “I could get worked up about this really easy. Other coaches are blaming the referees for our wins. We may not be the best team, but we’ve been the better team on those nights.
“We got two more weeks to see if we can hold out and do this.”
Bachman and the Cavaliers (6-2, 3-0 in District 1-2A) are also en route to a league title. However, the incident against Red River is something that won’t be forgotten.
Bachman admits he could have handled his reaction to the nullified touchdown better.
“I couldn’t get his attention all night, so I wandered by the numbers,” Bachman said. “I said, ‘That’s a terrible call and you’re terrible.’
“I could have called time out (to get his attention). I didn’t have to personally attack him.”
However, it was disturbing to watch the ensuing plays. It looked obvious to those in attendance a flag was coming no matter what Calvary executed on that particular drive.
Calvary nearly converted second-and-64, but that play came back. A few plays later, the Cavaliers were under center in the shadow of their OWN goal line.
“Whether that was (the officials’) intent or not, that is what their actions portrayed,” Bachman said.
Calvary stopped short of kneeling on the ball, but eventually waved the white flag and punted to Red River. The Cavaliers prevailed, 40-13, that evening.
Bachman and Moore both hailed the work of Mike Thibodeaux, the head of local officials.
“He may or not agree, but he’ll listen to you,” Bachman said.
Instances like DeflateGate and second-and-84 are why coaches often refrain from saying they’ve seen “everything.”
“It’s what I call the Batman theory,” Bachman said. “You’ve seen it all, then, ‘Bam! Pow! Zonk!”