[This is my column in the Oct. 30 issue of The Commercial Review.]
It wasn’t supposed to end that way.
The Jay County High School volleyball team had a point taken away from it in the opening round of the sectional tournament Oct. 23 against defending champion Homestead.
The point was originally awarded to the Patriots after the line judge waved his flag to signal that the ball crossed the net outside of the antenna. But after Homestead coach Kent Mitchell and his players disputed the ruling, the officials convened and determined the point would be replayed.
But this wasn’t just any ordinary point in the early stages of the match — this was with the Patriots leading 11-10 in the fifth and final set after rallying to even the match at two games apiece.
The scoreboard read 12-10 in favor of Jay County before the point was challenged. Instead, it was taken off the board, killing the Patriots’ momentum, and Homestead went on to take the next five points and the match.
“This isn’t a regular season match where you have a kid or an adult … so you had a licensed official who made the call immediately,” JCHS coach Fred Medler said after the loss. “It wasn’t like he guessed and waited. It was immediately that his flag went up.
“You don’t overrule that.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Even in the professional leagues with instant replay and cameras throughout the stadium, calls are overturned only if there is indisputable video evidence the initial ruling is incorrect.
With high school sports, obviously, the technology is not available to review a play. But still, to overturn a call as an official at this level, there better be no question the initial ruling was wrong.
Where the officials erred in discussing the play, however, was not including the line judge who made the initial call. It was only the two at the net who decided to replay the point.
It’s mind-boggling to discuss a disputed play without even including the official who made the call in the first place.
It was a failure on the officials’ part in an attempt to get the call right.
This was not the first time — at least in my experience — that Jay County has had a season end at the hands of the officials.
The JCHS boys basketball team lost in the sectional semifinal to Fort Wayne South Side on March 7. That time, however, officials chose not to blow their whistle.
Trailing 63-61 with 3.1 seconds remaining, then-senior Trey Teagle took an inbound pass in the left corner, drove the baseline around a pair of South Side defenders and attempted the potential game-tying layup.
As his shot missed the mark — resulting in a season-ending loss for the Patriots — Teagle grabbed his nose because he had been hit in the face by the Archer defenders.
Without a foul called on a play that was clearly a violation, the officials had an input in the outcome of the game.
“I’m sure he got fouled,” Jay County coach Craig Teagle said following the play. “The officials decided at the end of the game ‘We’re not going to make the call that determines the game.’
“Well you do by not blowing the whistle to make the call.”
It is not the duty of an official to have an influence on the game. It is up to them to make sure the game is played within the rules of the sport. The contest should be — and more often than not it is — determined by the athletes that are competing.
It’s painful to see those rare occasions in which officials have a direct impact on the outcome of the game.
It’s even more difficult when that impact ends what was supposed to be a promising season.