”A Closer Look” with Mark Miller
Week one was a blast! Fans in the stands, bands playing, cheerleaders cheering, players shaking hands after games – this is high school football as it is meant to be. What a start to the Stark County football season – 2 overtime games on Thursday night. Both games were decided by a 2-point conversion in overtime. Therefore, this week’s Closer Look deals with that subject – when should a coach decide to go for 2, and when should the team kick the PAT (point after touchdown)?
Pro and college teams almost always kick the PAT. High schools not as often because some teams, in some years, do not have a reliable kicker, so they trust their offense to go for 2 rather than miss a kick and get nothing after a touchdown. High school teams that have a good kicker usually kick the PAT unless the score or situation either requires or invites a 2-point attempt.
For instance, last Thursday Perry and Central Catholic went into overtime. The Crusaders had the ball first and scored a touchdown. Coach Lindesmith and his staff decided to go for two rather than kick. They made it and forced Perry, who then scored a TD as well, to go for two to tie. When they were unsuccessful with their 2-point conversion, they lost the game 28-26.
In Navarre, Sandy Valley and Fairless also went to overtime. The Cardinals had the ball first, scored a TD then kicked and made the PAT to go up by 7 points. Fairless then scored a TD but rather than try to tie the game with a kick, decided to go for 2. Hunter Campbell ran it into the endzone and the Falcons came away with a 1 point win 29-28. That allowed for one of the craziest postgame celebrations I’ve ever seen. Coach AJ Sarbaugh explained it as the Ring of Fire. You have to see it to believe it but it sure was fun to watch!
Why did Coaches Lindesmith and Sarbaugh go for 2 and not kick the PAT? Neither team would have lost the game at that point if they kicked it and got 1 point. I did not see the events leading up to Central’s decision but I saw the Fairless game and asked assistant coach Jeff Sarbaugh afterwards how they decided to go for two. It basically came down to trusting their team and especially star running back Hunter Campbell who told the coach he wanted the ball. Putting the ball in the hands of your best player, on your best play, behind your best lineman, is never a bad idea. When a player of Hunter’s caliber says he wants the ball, he would have run thru a brick wall to score for his team.
Other factors enter into decisions like this. What are the weather conditions? Which way is the wind blowing and how hard? Is my kicker healthy and kicking well? Is my team healthy and rested (last Thursday many players were cramping up due to heat and humidity)? Do I have a play I think will work? Do we have the momentum (Fairless had just completed a big comeback to tie the score in regulation). In some cases it comes down to a “gut feel” by the head coach. But usually it is a calculated decision that is discussed before the game is even played and decided on before the situation actually presents itself. Even with all that going thru a coach’s head, sometimes even the most logical decision to kick or go for it does not work out. Hey Browns fans, remember “Red Right 88”?