Sam Posner, a Torrey Pines High teacher who has long served as the public address announcer at the school’s football games, was attempting to decipher a confusing situation.
Oddly enough, his description at the microphone Friday night turned out to be quite similar to one that legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg attempted to provide his audience during the Chargers-Broncos game broadcast Sunday afternoon on CBS.
That’s not a bad thing to have somebody say about you.
But more importantly, because what happened in the Torrey Pines game Friday night with a referee’s whistle was similar to the Chargers’ game at Denver, Torrey Pines football coach Scott Ashby had a little easier time explaining it all to his teenage players.
“I did help,” Ashby said. “I told our young men that we made our fair share of mistakes in the game, and the referee made a mistake with a quick whistle. You just have to realize everybody makes mistakes and try to overcome it and move on to the next game.”
Chargers fans who watched the Bolts’ 39-38 loss at Denver know all about referee Ed Hochuli blowing a call when he ruled a fumble as an incomplete pass and stopped play with a whistle.
Everyone was confused, and Enberg admitted he didn’t know why the referees placed the ball at the 10-yard line before resuming play.
That’s similar to what Posner said, too, when everyone was confused that the referee in the Eastlake-Torrey Pines game spotted the ball at the Eastlake 40-yard line after Torrey Pines running back Brock Ringo had run around end and scored an apparent touchdown. Ringo was holding the ball aloft in the end zone when the referees instructed him to bring the ball back.
“They’re putting the ball at the 40-yard line, and I don’t know why,” Posner told the fans at Falcon Field, which, by the way, should be re-named John Lynch Field for the future Hall-of-Famer once he officially retires.
Torrey Pines runs a Wing-T offense that relies on deception, and what happened is fullback Robert Murray carried out his fake so well into the middle of the line, the referees blew the play dead when Eastlake’s defenders gang-tackled him. But Ringo was on his way to the end zone before anyone realized the fullback didn’t have the ball.
I didn’t know what happened, and neither did Curt Stephenson, a La Jolla High alum who knows a lot more football than me as a former Buffalo Bills and University of Michigan wide receiver. He provides color analysis for the Torrey Pines radio broadcasts, and he pulled off his headset and exclaimed, “Can you believe that?”
Similar to Hochuli admitting his mistake to Chargers head coach Norv Turner, Ashby said the referee (sorry, I don’t have his name, so Torrey Pines fans might be disappointed that they can’t flood his e-mail box similar to poor Hochuli) admitted his mistake before play resumed.
“My reaction was utter helplessness,” Ashby said. “You know it’s a mistake, but you also know there is no recourse. They (the referees) felt very bad about it. All you can do in that situation is own up to your mistake, and they acted very professionally.”
The mistake wasn’t nearly as costly in the Torrey Pines game – on the scoreboard or, of course, in financial terms in the billion-dollar business of the NFL. Eastlake, ranked No. 8 in the CIF San Diego Section, won convincingly, 35-17, so the whistle didn’t change who won the contest.
But it did make it easier for Ashby to get his players to accept what happened and move on to this week’s game against Rancho Bernardo.
“I was working, preparing for the next game, so I didn’t see it happen on TV, but I did see the highlights later,” Ashby said of the Chargers’ game. “It just goes to show you that it happens at every level.”
Pro athletes do such a disservice to high school coaches by setting bad examples – from fighting to taunting to excessive celebrating — that at least this is one time when pro sports made life easier for a high school coach.
— TOM SHANAHAN