Poly call may have been wide left of good

The Inside Stuff

November 09, 1992|By Bill Tanton

One of the worst things in sports is having an important game decided by an official's call -- especially when the call is incorrect.

That appeared to be the case in a vital Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference football game Saturday in which host Poly beat Gilman, 14-13.

Gilman, trailing by a point with four minutes left, attempted a 21-yard field goal. Mike Allan's kick looked good from my 50-yard line seat at Lumsden Stadium. It also looked good to all the people sitting around me -- Phil Lohrey, Dave Palmer, Larry Naylor.

But referee John Barton, a football official here since 1978, signaled that the kick was no good.

At the Gilman bench, coach Sherm Bristow and his staff were in shock.

"It was wide left," Barton told Bristow.

"That ball was inside the upright by 2 yards," insisted Bristow.

In a situation like that, you expect howls from the team deprived of three points. But this time even neutral spectators were saying the official had blown it.

Marty Meloy, Gilman's baseball coach and a member of Bristow's football staff, summed it up well.

"The only one in the ballpark who thought the kick was no good was the referee," said Meloy, "and he was the only one who counted."

At stake was more than a game. Gilman had one loss, to unbeaten, defending champion City. City could lose to either Loyola this Saturday or to Poly on Thanksgiving Day -- or to both. Gilman would be very much in the championship picture, as Poly is now with but one MSA loss to Loyola.

With a minute left, Gilman's Allan attempted another field goal from 24 yards out. That one appeared to many to hit the crossbar and slide over.

Referee Barton ruled it no good and on that one he was right.

At Poly, the goalposts have two crossbars, one at 10 feet for football, the other, two feet lower for soccer. A lot of people thought the second kick was good. Bristow was not among those.

"That one only cleared the soccer goal," Sherm said.

Understandably, Gilman feels it was robbed. But just as the Colts had no recourse after the infamous 1965 field goal by Don Chandler for Green Bay, Gilman has no recourse now.

"It's a judgment call," Jim Diggs, supervisor of officials, said yesterday, "and one official -- the referee -- has to make it. In four-man crew mechanics, when the snap takes place inside the 10-yard line the referee is stationed behind the kicker, two officials are on the wings, and the umpire is behind the defensive line. The referee is the only one facing the goalpost. Maybe we could do something to improve our mechanics, but this is the way they do it all over the country with four-man crews."

Many local high schools use five-man crews. Baltimore City schools limit it to four. At $40 per official, you can see why.

"Hey, look," said Diggs. "The NFL uses seven-man crews and re-plays showed they made mistakes. It's tough for one man to make the call John Barton made."

It's even tougher on the losers. The game left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.

* Over the weekend I saw the MSA C Conference championship settled when St. Paul's completed a perfect 9-0 season by beating Boys' Latin, 13-0. It was the third straight title for coach Mitch Tullai's Crusaders.

This was the end of an era at St. Paul's, which will graduate a terrific group including Chas Offutt, Ben Strutt, Joey Unitas and Michael Watson.

Despite St. Paul's superiority, Boys' Latin impressed everyone by going toe-to-toe with St. Paul's to the final gun. "They always do," said Tullai.

That's a tribute to Boys' Latin's young coach, Drew Haugh, who graduated from the school in 1978.

* Mark Duffner warned everyone last week about Florida State's team speed. Now we all know what he was talking about.

In FSU's 69-21 win over Maryland, it looked as if the Seminoles were running at top speed and the Terps were moving like. . . well, like turtles.

Maryland's most lopsided football loss ever was by 78-0 to Navy in 1913. Close behind was a 62-0 loss to -- are you ready for this? -- Johns Hopkins 100 years ago last month. The game was played in Clifton Park.

The two teams that should have met Saturday were Florida State and Notre Dame. Both looked unbeatable. The Irish, who walloped Boston College, 54-7, couldn't do anything wrong in running up a 37-0 halftime lead.

* It didn't take long for Orlando rookie Shaquille O'Neal to prove he's going to be a great NBA player.

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