Steve Troglia will tell it to you straight: His high school's football team was not involved in the latest incident of sportsmanship taking a backseat to scoring.
Don't tell him the final score was 67-0. Or that the quarterback broke the Arizona single-game record for TD passes with nine.
|Show Low QB Rathen Ricedorff threw nine TD passes in the game|
"I understand sportsmanship," Troglia said. "I think this is being blown way out of proportion."
Troglia, in his first year as athletic director at Chinle (Ariz.) High, said he's received a lot of calls about his school's loss to Show Low last Friday night.
Media outlets weren't besieging him about the score (regretfully such a final isn't that unusual these days) but the fact that Show Low quarterback Rathen Ricedorff threw two of his nine TD passes in the second half, well after the game had been decided and had moved to a running clock.
The game has produced another chapter in a popular debate regarding scoring vs. sportsmanship in high school athletics - one that took off last season after a girls basketball team won, 100-0. A result that eventually got an unapologetic coach fired.
This fall, it's football. But like the 83-0 high school football game in Florida that garnered so much attention after RivalsHigh wrote about it last week, Troglia said the score doesn't necessarily reflect what happened on the field.
"Do I think they ran the score up on us?" he said. "No. I think they won the game with a lot of class and dignity.
"Every kid that dressed played. That spoke a lot on their behalf. They made every effort to keep the score as low as possible. If they wanted to, they could have went three digits on us."
Show Low head football coach Randy Ricedorff doesn't regret throwing in the second half. ("If we threw it or ran it, we were going to score.")
He doesn't regret getting the record. ("Our kids have worked hard; the captains came up and said they wanted to do it.")
He doesn't regret putting his son - who just happens to be the quarterback - in the middle of a storm. ("He's fine. This record is not about Rathen; this is a team record.")
Its name ? which came from a poker game ? sets it apart.
According to local legend (not to mention a bronze statue in town commemorating the event that's shown on the city's web site), the town was named in 1870 during a poker game between C.E. Cooley and Marion Clark.
It seems the two realized, "This town ain't big enough for the both of us" (Yes, this didn't just happen in the movies). So they agreed to let a game of cards decide who was to move. According to the story, Clark said, "If you can show low, you win." Cooley turned up the deuce of clubs (the lowest possible card) and replied, "Show low it is."
The town (which sits at 6,412 feet and is 195 miles north of Tucson) embraces its origin; its main street is named "Deuce of Clubs."
And for the record, there's no truth to the rumor that Clark started up a sister city named, "Dumb Bar Bet."
- Tom Bergeron
"I feel that people have the perspective that Show Low is not a class program," he said. "You don't like that there are people who were not at the game and go by hearsay. The perception is the problem."
Character plus Chemistry equals Championships. That's the motto at Show Low. And it's what is being called into question.
Ricedorff, in his second decade of coaching in Arizona, is quick to point out that he schedules the toughest games he can find - often going up in class to get better competition. The game with Chinle was one of the games the school was mandated to play by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
And Ricedorff points out Show Low, the No. 2 ranked team in 3A, wasn't the only school to have a blowout win. The other four teams in the top five won by a combined 225-14. The top-ranked team, Blue Ridge, won 64-0.
In all of these games, the eventual winner was known before the opening kickoff. When this is the case, Ricedorff said, a coach needs to make a decision.
"We know it's going to be a blowout," he said. "Whether we run the ball or throw the ball is not going to make a difference."
Ricedorff said most of his team's touchdown drives were less than 50 yards (in fact, only two of the nine TD passes were for more than 21 yards). Throwing during those drives was just the way they decided to play.
"We need to have an objective," Ricedorff said. "Because as a coach in football, you need to have something. In this game, our objective was to work on pass blocking."
Even after his team took a 46-0 lead after the first quarter.
Steve Fernau has been a resident of Show Low for 31 years, serving as mayor for the past five. He knows the passion people in the area have for sports, but he also knows Ricedorff - and he doesn't think the coach did anything wrong.
Fernau did not attend the game (he listened to it on the radio) but says he's been around Ricedorff enough to make a judgment.
"Knowing Coach Ricedorff and how he operates, I can't see that as being an issue at all," he said. "He's very much a sportsman, always teaching the kids right form wrong. And he's always stressing sportsmanship."
Others in the White Mountains area disagree.
The Smack board at the popular area web site, Sports Zone.com has been weighing in on the issue almost from the time it happened.
Ricedorff said he doesn't read the boards, but he knows what's on them.
"Things have gotten out of control," he said. "Everyone has accused me of being an idiot."
Actually, a lot worse.
The posts titled, "Shame on Ricedorffffff" and "Show Low and Coach R crossed the line!" each had more than 1,200 views and over 50 posts. Most weren't as professional as this:
"I find no justification for this type of unpardonable behavior. Tasteless, poor sportsmanship. This gives the concept of victory with honor a black eye, and discredits what most of us stand for in organized team sports I would like to think that there is some type of formal condemnation for this."
Some said the coach had players go out of bounds so they could throw a pass. Others wondered why he didn't practice field-goal kicking instead of pass blocking. Many said such actions were common for Show Low, generally considered a top athletic high school.
The post titled, "A SL supporters response," did little to garner support for the program.
"Show Low's coach and athletic program will bear the stain of this game for years to come," said one commenter.
Chinle's Troglia said the result wasn't about the record ("I didn't even know it at the time"), wasn't about school size (his school is actually much bigger) and it wasn't about ethnicity (his school is made up almost entirely of Native Americans).
It was, he said, just about football.
|Show Low head football coach Randy Ricedorff doesn't regret throwing in the second half.|
"It would have been more embarrassing for them to run out of bounds instead of scoring."
With more than three decades of experience at various high school jobs around the state - including a coaching stint at Show Low - Troglia knows this game simply came down to region.
"Scores like this for teams in the North against the East are not uncommon," he said. "We are just a weak football conference."
Troglia feels first-year coach Curtis Burger has the program headed in the right direction.
"We've got a new coach and we're working at building a new program," he said. "We have to take our lumps and hope that in the future our program is built the right away."
And while his school can't compete against Eastern powers now, he knows there's a chance it could in the future. After all, it does in basketball and cross-country, where Chinle routinely competes for state titles.
"We may take a beating in football, but we reciprocate in hoops and cross-country," he said.
For now, Troglia is just glad his football team competed all game.
"I complimented our team for not giving up or quitting or starting an altercation by doing something dirty," he said. "They did a tremendous job in just finishing the game.
"They realized this is a good team we're playing. And we have to get stronger; we have to get better."
There is hope. Troglia is confident his team will do well in conference play. And the team does have a victory (against three losses) so far.
"It was 52-0," he said. "And I wasn't getting any calls over that."