Locker Room: VHSL, who’s in, the late call at Salem

Fans are always primarily concerned and understandably so about the region their favorite school is a member when the VHSL Playoffs begin. Pulaski County is happy to be back in the playoffs this season, and so are a lot of schools, most deserving, some not, but that’s the way the system works. Sometimes it works better than others.

Who are the top schools in the classifications and regions? It looks like the playoffs are going to be exciting. In Class 4, Region D you have our 7-3 Cougars, 10-0 Blacksburg, 9-1 E.C. Glass, 8-2 GW-Danville, 7-3 Salem, and 7-3 William Byrd. Strong, what a playoff should be. In 4A there’s 9-1 Lafayette and 9-1 Lake Taylor. In 4B Louisa is 10-0, so is Eastern View and Dinwiddie is 9-1. In 4C the big horse looks to be 9-1 Sherando. Class 4 is going to be a challenge for any team to win.

Around the region in Class 3, Region 4 Northside is 9-1, Lord Botetourt 8-2 and most believe those two are destined to play again, and Abingdon finished strong at 8-2. In Class 2, Region D teams face the challenge of defeating 9-1 Appomattox who has won three straight titles, Glenvar is 9-1, and Radford 9-1. In Class 1, Region D Chilhowie is 10-0, PH-Glade 9-1, and Galax 8-2.

There are some other teams from the area that will also enter the playoffs in Class 3; 2-8 Cave Spring, 2-8 Hidden Valley, and 2-8 Christiansburg. Those teams obviously don’t belong in the playoffs and furthermore they know it. I suspect they will show up and play hard, and I wish them luck, but a virtual all-inclusive system sometimes takes a little luster away in the early rounds.

There are 42 teams in the playoffs in the six classifications 1-2-3-4-5-6 with records of 5-5 or less. There are two teams 1-9, and two 0-10. I do not understand where the feeling of accomplishment is there, especially when you are likely about to be trounced again and finish 0-11. But as the process continues, it gets better and better, tougher and tougher, and more exciting for the teams and their fans that remain alive. Beginning right now, it’s sudden death. With the next defeat, thousands of kids will begin the painful process of taking the gear off for the final time.

College Scene:

Things continue to thin out fast. Alabama and Georgia are going to play for the SEC title in a month. That’s right, it’s already done. The SEC seems a bit easy for those two programs. The only way the SEC can get two teams in the Final Four Playoff is if Georgia beats Alabama. I don’t think they will, but anything is possible. If it happens, Bama gets a free pass and that’s the way it is.

The ACC is a bit of a train wreck. How far has Louisville fallen? The Cards have been hammered six times on the way to a 2-7 record and Clemson put 77 on them last week. Clemson basically is the ACC at this point. The Tigers play Boston College Saturday. The Eagles are 7-2, but do you think they will win? Syracuse is 7-2, but already have lost their two big ACC matchups, and NC-State is 6-2, but has already been smashed by Clemson. All those teams are in the Atlantic Division, and all of them appear to be the best teams in the conference. The Coastal is led by Pitt at 5-4 overall, Virginia is second at 6-3, but the Hoos have lost two ACC games to date, Pitt just one. Virginia Tech is 4-4 overall, 3-2 in the ACC. So what does the title matchup look like to you?

But the league is actually even worse. Two of its prime programs are having embarrassing seasons. How long will Willie Taggert last at Florida State? Miami is only 5-4 and its biggest win has been over FSU. The Seminoles are 4-5, and the biggest win has been over Wake. Not good.

The Big 10 will almost certainly come down to a battle between Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan looks the best right now, and the conference title game will probably be against Northwestern. By the end of the season I predict that a Nebraska team that has won only two games will probably be the best team in the Big 10 West. If Michigan wins the Big 10 it is without question in the Final Four. Is Ohio State does, it’s likely, but not as certain.

Left you have Notre Dame and if the Irish finish undefeated they will be in the playoff. The Big 12 is maybe the most exciting race at this time. Oklahoma is 8-1, West Virginia 7-1, and they play in a couple of weeks, and likely will then play again in the conference title game. It is possible that a game vs. NS-State lost due to storms, could end up hurting the Mountaineers chances, but at this point, WVU and Oklahoma are still in the running for a playoff berth. Who’s left? Really, nobody.

Poor Execution:

      Last Friday at Salem at the very least a mistake in execution was made by the officiating crew in the game against Pulaski County. Cougar quarterback Kade Akers moved toward the line of scrimmage. He quickly executed a quarterback’s sneak. Touchdown! The Pulaski County kicking team runs onto the field to kick the point after, and suddenly play is stopped. Salem coach Stephen Meganbauer complains that he didn’t think Akers was set for a full second before the snap. That is in fact a rule. Can you tell a second? Is that like a blink of an eye, maybe two blinks?

I’m not complaining about the Salem coach questioning a call. He’s doing his job. But this sets the record for a late flag. At any rate after chatting with Meganbauer the ref walks onto the field and drops a flag to the turf. Procedure on Pulaski County, five yard penalty back to the six. Touchdown comes off the board.

What should have happened? The white hat listens to the complaint, and maybe the coach is right and maybe he’s not, but I don’t think anybody had a stop watch on the play, and again, how much is a second, one blink, two? What should have happened is the ref saying coach there’s no way for us to be sure and it’s too far after the fact now anyway. We’re going to kick the point and move on.

That’s what should have happened. I’m not saying Pulaski County wins if it was handled properly. The issue would certainly have been decided a lot later, but officials exhibit poor execution at times too. This was one of those times. I’ll also ask one other question. If this complaint had been lodged by the head coach from William Fleming, Christiansburg, Giles, or Fort Chiswell, what do you think would have happened? I think you know.

One other thing. The ball was at the Cougar seven. There was an off-sides call, a good call. The football was picked up and moved to the two. From the seven to the two is five yards, however, it’s inside the 10. It’s half the distance. The ball should have been between the three and four. PCHS coach Stephen James complained. They did nothing.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot

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