Late score wasn’t piling on

October 6, 2012

Scotty Pugh said the minute he called for the play, he knew there would be some criticism.

He was referring to the trick pass that fell incomplete in the closing seconds of a 41-20 victory against South Hills at Pirate Stadium on Sept. 28.

On the next play, a running play to Justice Love netted the desired result, a 47-yard touchdown that gave the Pirates a 21-point cushion in victory.

Pugh was not trying to run up the score. He was simply trying to give his team an advantage should this game be a factor come tiebreaking time for the playoffs.

And with half of the teams in Texas going to the postseason these days (until the University Interscholastic League changes its format and ALL of the teams go), tiebreakers are often a large part of the equation.

“I understand how it looked, but we’re trying to get to the playoffs,” said Pugh. “It’s not our rule, but we’re going to play by it.”

Tiebreaking rules vary from district to district, and almost all involve a victory cap. In 7-4A the victory cap is 21 points, meaning that no matter how badly a team defeats another, only 21 of those points count in breaking ties in the standings.

There are coaches who would still try to score 60 or more, but Pugh is not one. He proved most recently in wins over Fort Worth North Side and Mansfield Lake Ridge that isn’t his style.

And even the Dallas Cowboys offense could score a lot on either of those teams.

Margin of victory caps are actually designed to keep teams from running up the score. Sometimes, however, as in the case of the Pirates’ game against South Hills, it is necessary to try and score late to reach that victory cap.

A friend of mine suggested that the reason the South Hills coach was upset with the decision was that it didn’t happen “in the normal context of the game.” He cited the example of TCU coach Gary Patterson, who is noted as a coach who does not like running up the score, but is okay with a more than convincing victory if it happens in the “normal course of events.”

Granted, I know some coaches who would have had their team take a knee and run out the final 15 seconds. But most of those coaches also have teams so good they aren’t likely going to have to worry about being in a tiebreaker.

“I don’t want to look my kids in the face after we lose a coin toss and say, ‘Sorry guys, we could have tried to score another touchdown,’” said Pugh.

“We’re going to do whatever it takes to give our team the best shot at reaching the playoffs, and we will not apologize for that.”

Nor should he. The playoffs might have been diluted in recent years, but there is still much more honor in being in a playoff game than there is in having to buy a ticket to get in one.

ADDED TEAMS, ADDED PRESSURE

Also, along with the excitement that comes from taking half of Texas to the playoffs comes additional pressure to get there. In other words, if a coach doesn’t get his team to the postseason in this day and age, it means they were in the bottom half of the district.

Used to be a coach could get away with missing the playoffs several years in a row when only the top one or two teams advanced, but those days are no more.

If Pugh had been trying to run up the score, would he have run a simple handoff to Love? By the way, the senior made one of the prettiest runs I’ve seen in years behind some of the best blocking I’ve seen in awhile.

“It surprised me he scored, but there was no need to press another pass,” said Pugh.

For the record, the South Hills coach was apparently well aware of what Granbury was trying to do. He had his team in a prevent defense, and why would he do that if he thought the Pirates were just going to run out the clock?

Pugh’s decision to go for late points was certainly understandable. In their chase for a third consecutive playoff berth, the Pirates can use every point they can muster.

They can also use every takeaway they can get. Therefore, instead of fretting over whether or not Pugh was piling on points, perhaps worry more about the Granbury players who were too busy celebrating after a sack to notice there was a fumble that South Hills recovered while Granbury received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

While it made no difference in the final outcome, it might behoove the Pirates to save the celebrating until after the play is completely over. just as it would be a shame to miss the postseason on a coin flip, it would also be too bad if they missed because they strayed from disciplined play.

perhaps Pugh summed it best when he asked, “When’s the last time folks were talking about Granbury scoring too many points?”

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