This could be the best football team in Scotty Pugh’s five years as coach.
Not because of an overabundance of talent – although there is some pretty solid talent that is getting better with each game.
Because they are a smart team.
One of the most telling forms of a football program’s savvy isn’t necessarily something they do, but rather something they don’t do.
This team does not commit a lot of penalties.
Through their first five games the Pirates had committed just 27 penalties for 234 yards. Opponents had been flagged 39 times for 325 yards.
That’s an extra football field to the advantage of the Pirates.
As for major penalties, the 15-yards-plus kind, Granbury has only been assessed six for 90 yards. Their foes have been assessed 10 for 146 yards.
Those penalties typically carry first downs with them, meaning not only are they giving up yardage, they are giving a team a fresh start.
And if you ask any football fan in America, those ol’ officials are just waiting to pounce on “our” team and throw those flags. Imagine how frustrated they must be since the Pirates aren’t giving them reason to send the yellow hankies sailing.
“Football is an extremely emotional sport. There’s so much contact in it,” said Granbury athletic director Dwight Butler.
“You can’t let that emotion get the best of you. You lose focus, and it puts you playing from behind.”
Even in a 24-10 loss to Wichita Falls, the Pirates got the better of their opponent. Granbury, with many players in their first varsity game, was called for eight penalties for 65 yards (including just one for 15 yards), compared to a dozen for Wichita Falls for 105 yards (with four 15-yarders).
“In just about every game there’s going to be some unsportsmanlike conduct calls,” said Butler. “The thing you want to make sure of is that it’s not your team being penalized.”
YOUNG BUT LEARNING QUICK
Making the Pirates’ penalty advantage even more impressive is the fact that the roster is dotted with a lot of sophomores. Typically, that kind of youth will lend itself to more flags, but these youngsters are learning fast that those yellow flags can be your friend if you play properly.
“That says a lot about our kids and coaches,” said Butler. “It’s a compliment to the maturity of our coaching staff and our kids.”
Pugh has said on numerous occasions that the Pirates need every break they can get to return to the playoffs. He’s often commented that with their inexperience and less speed than the rest of the district, they will have to play near perfect.
They’ve been pretty darned good. In last week’s 21-0 victory against O.D. Wyatt, a team many thought would be one of Granbury’s biggest obstacles in the postseason chase, the Pirates overcame five turnovers – and a major reason was a lack of penalties.
Granbury was called three times for 20 yards. The Chaparrals, meanwhile, were flagged six times for 55 yards, some of which played a part in them being unable to score – well, that and a swarming Pirate defense.
Perhaps the most impressive thing the Pirates have shown this season was the ability to shake off the ending of the previous week’s 41-20 victory against South Hills. That game ended with the Pirates getting a pair of 15-yard penalties late, including an unsportsmanlike conduct call.
In fact, they would have had a second unsportsmanlike penalty had the Scorpions not had one to offset it.
But, as good teams will do, there was no carry-over. They shook it off and had their fewest penalties of the season against Wyatt, their biggest game of the season to date.
And you know Wyatt, a good team in its own right, had studied the film from the previous game. The Chaps, as well they should have, were trying to get under the Pirates’ skin, but to no avail.
“There were a lot of frustrated people and players for O.D. Wyatt that night, but we didn’t get involved in that,” said Butler.
“That shows a good bunch of kids who are learning some valuable things.
“And I’m not just talking about on the field. Athletics is such a great tool as to how to live as an adult. The fact that these guys are able to stay focused and handle things will go on to serve them well later in life.”
In the meantime, it could very well help lead them to the postseason for a third straight year. The last time that happened Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In was one of TV’s popular shows, the Texas Rangers were still the Washington Senators, and the Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas Longhorns were still in the old Southwest Conference.
But none of these kids playing today remember that. That’s okay, as long as they remember to keep doing what they’re doing.
Or rather what they’re NOT doing.
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