I’ve been covering high school football now for about six or seven years, roughly. I can’t recall how many games I covered for The Spartan, De La Salle’s newspaper.
I’ve missed deadline once — last night.
To start, here’s how my night usually goes. With the San Diego Union-Tribune, games would start at about 7 p.m. I’d have until 10:30 to send the editors a 400-word story (sometimes 350, sometimes 450) with quotes. Every week, I had that story in before 10:30.
With the Tracy Press, varsity football games usually start at 7:30 p.m. I get there about an hour early to catch the end of the sophomore game (no idea why it’s called that instead of junior varsity, like everywhere else), meet up with the statkeeper and grab a quote or two from the head coach for a 150-200 word recap of that game.
For the varsity game, I have until 10 p.m. to give the copy editors a 200-ish word blurb for the print edition about the game (even if it’s not over yet) and then until 10:25 p.m. (again, regardless if the game is over) to call the copy desk for the score or to send in the final revised copy of the game story. After that, I can head down to the field and get quotes for my full-sized story for TracyPress.com.
Last night, much to the chagrin of the copy desk, I filed at 10:32 p.m. I’m sorry.
I had a feeling it was going to be a long night as soon as I walked into the stadium. When I got there at about 6:15 (MaxPreps told me varsity would start at 7:15!), the sophomore game was only midway through the third quarter… and it dragged on. Injuries, incomplete passes and other clock stoppages made me worry. Then I found out that it’s the last night of Edison’s Charles Magnasco Stadium and the field would be torn up. It was senior night and homecoming. This could take a while.
After all the Edison seniors on the football team and the cheerleading squad were introduced with their parents, they didn’t line up for the opening kickoff until 8 p.m.
One of West’s coaches was sitting next to me in the press box. “Call running plays all night,” I joked. “Keep the clock moving.”
Then there was some problem with the scoreboard. Whoever knew how to run it wasn’t in the press box at the time, and it still showed 00:00 in the 4th quarter with the sophomore score up. The referee wouldn’t start the game until the scoreboard was clear. After a five minute wait, trying to find the scoreboard guy, Edison finally kicked off to West’s Dexter Alcala.
The first half went by in about an hour and I thought, hey, maybe we can get this one in by deadline. West was up 14-0 at the half, so to save time, I wrote up most of my 200-word print blurb based on the extrapolation that the Wolf Pack would win.
And wouldn’t you know it, at about 10:20 p.m., Edison took a 22-21 lead with about a minute and a half left. I was panicking. I hate printing the “as of press time, the game was almost over” kind of thing. Despise it. I called the copy chief to tell her the situation I was in, but I didn’t quite know what to do. West was driving into Edison territory and I was trying to pay attention to that and figure out how I’d write a pithy blurb. So I waited.
As West’s Adam Crandall lined up for about a 35-yard field goal attempt, I figured (this at 10:30 p.m.) that I could file the final score and take whatever grief about being a few minutes late. Crandall lined up for the kick with one second left, even with the protestations of the Edison crowd, who harangued the scorekeeper for what they felt to be unnecessary clock stoppages on West’s final drive.
A play earlier, after Alcala completed a pass to tight end Darin Fleming, the clock struck zero. Edison players and coaches stormed the field, but referees told them to move back to the sideline. One second was put back on the clock. Crandall lined up, then Edison iced the kicker (called a time out to give him more time to think about the kick).
West’s center snapped it. It was a good hold, Crandall gave it a good boot, and the ball headed toward the lower left portion of the goalpost. From my vantage point, way up in the press box and partially obstructed by a light pole, I thought it went in. Then I saw the officials wave their arms, no good. I figured maybe I didn’t see it go left or something. They were on the field and right under the crossbar, I was a mile away. I trusted their judgment because, well, they have the final say. At 10:32, I sent the story with the final score, 22-21, Edison, mentioning Crandall’s missed kick.
But then there was some hesitation. West players ran out onto the field to protest. The referees huddled, and West started to celebrate. This would be their second win of the season and keep their dreams alive of making the playoffs. After the officials’ held a powwow, a ref moved up to about the 5 yard line and again, signaled no good. West players were stunned, Edison players were euphoric.
“I’ll put my life on it, that the ball went past (the crossbar),” Alcala said after the game. “That’s how confident I am that that ball crossed that post.”
West head coach Steve Lopez echoed Alcala’s sentiments.
“It hit the crossbar and went through,” he said. “That was the commotion. But the officials didn’t see it.”
It’s rare I link to a competitor’s work, but the Stockton Record had a video guy there. He was in the press box for the sophomore game and seemed to be a pretty nice person, so I’ll throw this up. Kirk Barron, the Record video guy, was right behind the crossbar on that field goal attempt. He got a great shot of the disputed call. Go forward to about the 3:00 mark and see it again. You be the judge.