Don't hate players, hate game
Badger senior Rory Klean ran for 115 yards last Saturday.
October 26, 2011 | 07:17 AMPenalties.
With all things equal in the game of football, turnovers usually mean the difference between the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
It's not so bad when your opponent beats you and is clearly the better team, but it's another when unforced errors lead to a team's demise.
A good example is what transpired with the Badger football team the last two weeks. I stick to my story that Badger was the better team in home losses to Waterford and Sun Prairie, but for whatever reason, and I'm not saying it was Badger's fault, things didn't work out partially because of costly penalties in key moments.
Badger is a running team. They've done it all year. They've qualified for six straight WIAA playoffs with the same triple option formula. Day in and day out, the Badger offense perfects its running game, meticulously practicing dives, bellys and tosses. The talented linemen know how to play the game, and I'm sure they are very well aware of the rules.
Then it begs the question, for a team that wasn't highly penalized all season, why did it all of sudden happen the last two weeks.
After a season-opening defeat at Mukwonago, Badger rolled through seven straight opponents, stuffing an explosive ground game down their throats. The highlight was the Wilmot game, when Badger dominated the state-ranked Panthers 55-27, reeling off big run after big run and virtually avoiding any errors.
Fast forward to the Waterford game, a 7-0 double-overtime defeat, and the Badgers are called for 12 penalties, including three during touchdown plays (one which could've won the game in overtime). I'm simply not buying that these kids, who have played their butts off all season the right way, are all of a sudden holding on every other running play.
An offensive hold is called when an offensive players holds a defensive player, impeding his forward progress. According to Glossary of American Football, offensive holding is "when an offensive player blocks his opponent by holding his uniform or body."
According to an unnamed varsity football coach who I ran into in Burlington a couple weeks ago, high school referees aren't calling holds on passing plays but only running plays. I kept that in mind during Saturday's playoff game against Sun Prairie. Badger ran the ball 51 times, with two offensive holds called. However, one came on an 80-yard Chris Walker touchdown run in the fourth quarter that would've given Badger a 28-16 lead and most likely wrapped up the game.
However, I noticed on Sun Prairie pass plays (23 attempts), Cardinal linemen were literally tackling Badger defenders, and nothing was called. Just because a kid holds a block well, and the defender can't escape, doesn't mean it's a penalty. Furthermore, in the penalty-happy Waterford contest, most calls were on the weak side, where the action didn't even matter. When are the players going to be allowed to play the game and determine who's the best team?
Why do all these penalties have to decide games? I believe the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association needs to look at tape from these past two games and seriously evaluate its rules.
It is my duty as a sports journalist to report the truth and expose inconsistencies in the establishment. I'm not saying all calls are unwarranted, but let's face facts. You could call holding on just about every play because players fall down and some kids flat out manhandle others due to superior strength.
This Badger team, who finished 7-3, won the Southern Lakes, and had an explosive, fine-tuned running game, didn't just wake up one day and become good. It took all of three solid months, and the linemen performed crisp blocks the majority of the time. I can see pass-happy referees during the regular season, but not the playoffs. It's too important.
Badger was by far the better team compared to Waterford and Sun Prairie, out-gaining both and even dominating both at times.
On paper, it may look like Badger shot itself in the foot and tanked in the end. That's far from the truth. It's one thing for people to complain about their beloved team losing, but it's another when that's ALL you hear from parents, fans and community members alike.
Thanks to some questionable calls, the Badger football team was screwed.