Just trying to help with some high school football tweaks

This has been one of my favorite high school football seasons ever, mostly due to the advent of the Shreveport-Bossier Journal and getting to cover games and teams I wouldn’t normally get a chance to see.

Of the 19 teams in the SBJ’s coverage area, I saw 12 of them. Kinda hacked I didn’t get to see them all (especially since I missed 66 percent of the Bossier Parish schools).

But I’ve covered 20 games this year – including one that took two days – and each had its own story to tell. I suppose you could get that covering the City Hall beat, but I doubt it.

There’s plenty to love about a high school football season, but there are some things that might want to be looked at in the name of improvement.

And before we go there, let’s go here. The playoff structure in place is the best way to do something that is, by its own nature, imperfect. It will be tweaked and adjusted and re-arranged, but it will never be fixed. So let’s just live with what we’ve got and go from there. (Spoiler alert – the best teams almost always win the state championship, no matter what the system in place.)

REWARDING DISTRICT CHAMPIONS: One of the criticisms about the Power Point system is that it de-incentivizes winning the district. The kids still get a patch on the letter jacket, but that’s about it.

This was once done in basketball and I think it’s a good idea for football: Each district champion gets an extra 1.0 added to their final power point total. A team that finishes at 14.1 would jump to 15.1. It won’t make much difference at the top – you figure those teams would be district winners anyway – but lower-ranked district winners could move up 4-5 spots.

In a few cases, that might even mean a first-round home game or maybe even a bye. Not a bad reward for winning the district and certainly better than a patch.

FLAG THROWING AND CHAIN MOVING: Everybody yells about holding calls. You could bring the best NFL crew to a high school game and you’d still get that complaint. I think the referees do a good job of (1) knowing the rules (2) explaining issues to coaches and (3) keeping control of the game.

But there are two things I see that need to be improved because they can often be game-changers. And it’s nothing new for me because I’ve had this conversation with referee friends of mine for years.

Too often, referees throw flags without regard for where the infraction took place. They just throw them and wherever it lands is the spot. Not a big deal – unless it’s a spot-of-the-foul penalty. If an offensive hold occurs three yards behind the line of scrimmage, but the flag lands eight yards behind, that becomes an 18-yard penalty instead of a 13-yard penalty. That makes a difference.

It’s even worse on kick returns because there are bodies in motion all over the place. Sometimes the flag is being thrown from 20 yards away as the play is continuing in the opposite direction.

But the bigger problem? Ball spotting, especially on fourth down. I guess these referees are watching too much NFL and college where they love showing the side judge hurriedly pointing upfield to signal to move the chains. What’s the hurry?

In the 20 games I’ve seen this year, I’ve seen maybe two measurements. I don’t care how fast the offensive team wants to play. Get. It. Right. Especially in the fourth quarter. Especially in a playoff game. 

AND THE BAND SHOULDN’T PLAY ON: Sorry band people, but there’s a time and a place for everything. Play all you want … during timeouts, between quarters and at halftime. Not during live action.

I applaud the creative band directors who know enough football strategy to play only when the opposing team has the ball, but it should never be allowed. You think referees would allow it if some band wanted to perform a whistle routine during the game?

A team shouldn’t have an advantage just because its band knows how to play “Shake Your Groove Thing” on fourth down in a tie game. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com