Like the bulbs on the scoreboard at Harold Harlan Stadium Friday night, the Shreveport Bossier Journal staff group chat was blowing up during the last half of the epic District 1-5A battle between host Haughton and Benton, which saw the teams combine for 149 points.
The halftime score, 35-28, was on the high side, but nothing that would tip you off that the Bucs and the Tigers were headed for an epic 78-71 finish, capped by Benton’s Greg Manning rushing for 39 yards for his eighth touchdown of the game with 0:43 left to give Reynolds Moore’s Benton team the win.
When the final score hit the group chat, I stood there on the sidelines of Independence Stadium – between possessions of the Woodlawn and Bossier game – taking in the ramifications.
My first thought: “I’m off the hook!” And then a bit of a smile broke across my face.
“Do we know if anybody has ever scored that many points and lost?” an SBJ scribe asked in the group chat. Little did he know that the last head coach to do it was in the chat.
I’m your huckleberry.
Understand, this isn’t Susan Lucci trying to break through and win a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actress after 20 years, or Phil Mickelson trying to discard the title “best golfer in the world without a major championship.”
When you’re the coach who has scored the most points, and still lost – nobody knows who you are, not even the sportswriters you work with.
While my last official duty as the head coach of the North Caddo Rebels was a scrimmage against Lincoln Prep in Eddie G. Robinson Stadium in August of 2014, my last game was November 1, 2013, against Joey Pesses and his Lakeside Warriors.
The Rebels scored 68 points that night, which is great – and a record in my eight years as a head football coach. If we could have only stopped the Lakeside offense.
If ifs and buts were candy and nuts…
Over the years, the facts get skewed. I’ve been telling people Lakeside scored 72 points. As if 70 wasn’t enough. Thankfully, SBJ’s stat guru, Lee Hiller, corrected me.
I thought we could go in at halftime and come up with a plan to at least slow down the Lakeside offense. They had two running backs who were very good. One of them – Chris Lewis – went to Hinds Community College as a sprinter before moving on to LSU.
What I found out that night is you go through different stages during the football coach’s traumatic stress syndrome.
The first stage is “we’ve got to do something.” That’s when you do a little hollering and hope your guys wake up and “get right.” You don’t scrap the game plan, just yet. That’s the next stage.
When the yelling doesn’t wake them, you have to resort to different measures. For example, widen the alignment of the defensive ends so they can do a better job of containment. But you have to be subtle about it. You move the defensive ends too far, and the other team starts kicking them out and running off tackle.
And that’s exactly what happened.
That’s when you move into the “Well, I guess we’re just going to have to score every time we get the ball” mode.
In the final stage, you go into full-blown Conspiracy Theory Mode. It’s like our players made a phone call to Sibley and the conversation went something like this:
“We’ve watched you on film. You don’t play any defense. Guess what? We don’t either. Instead of pretending like we care, why don’t we just see how many points we can score?”
Leaving Sanders-Prudhomme Stadium that night, I noticed there was still one person in the stadium. He was leaning on the rail and looking over the field. Was it the ghost of Johnny Prudhomme looking for a can of paint to cover his name on the side of the stadium?
As I got closer, I realized it was my quarterback.
“Are you OK?” I asked him, thinking he might be looking for a sharp object to fall on.
“Yeah, coach,” he said. “I am just thankful I got to be a part of this game. They will be talking about this game in this town for years to come.”
With over two decades in the coaching fraternity, I have developed relationships with fellow coaches. Most will give you a day or two after a tough loss before calling you and talking about it. Not former Loyola coach Steven Geter. He doesn’t understand the concept of “too soon.”
He called me on my drive home from Vivian.
“How do you score 68 points…AND LOSE?”
With friends like Geter, who needs enemies? If they can contain AND squeeze on a down block, I do. Or at least I did on November 1, 2013.
Contact Jerry at firstname.lastname@example.org