The final second of regulation in the 4A state title game between Bishop Dwenger and Evansville Central felt like an eternity for Saints fans.
With one second left in a scoreless game, the Bears lined up for a game-winning field goal try. The Saints attempted to ice kicker John Degenhart by calling three straight timeouts, forcing the senior to think about the magnitude of the situation.
Finally, the snap came, the hold put down and the kick launched…straight into an army of Dwenger players to block it.
The Saints would eventually win in the fourth OT, but stressing through a last-second field goal try by Evansville Central should not have even happened. Earlier in the final drive of regulation, the Bears fumbled the ball on a run and the Saints recovered. It was a clear fumble on replay, but the officials called the runner down by contact.
While Bishop Dwenger didn’t lose the state championship on an incorrect call, you could say Eastbrook did.
In the Class 2A game on Friday afternoon, Eastbrook trailed Western Boone 27-20 with less than five minutes to go. As the Stars looked to close out the game, quarterback Spencer Wright threw a screen that fell harmlessly incomplete, according to the official.
Unfortunately for Eastbrook, the screen was actually a backwards pass which should have been ruled a fumble. As a Panthers defender ran towards the end zone for a game-tying score, officials blew the play dead.
Instead of a tie game, Western Boone completed the drive with a touchdown to go up two scores, securing a state title.
This is not a column to bash officials, far from it. No official is perfect, and they are routinely on the receiving end of verbal tirades from coaches and fans (mostly the latter). Instead, Blitz wants to help officials by the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s adoption of those magical two words everyone at every level of sports loves to talk about – instant replay.
The 2018 high school football season saw three state high school athletic associations join Minnesota in implementing some form of instant replay in football – New Jersey, Texas and Alabama. Other states have looked at instant replay with hesitancy, citing cost and the delays in game play.
To be clear, Blitz isn’t pushing for instant replay to be used across the entire state every fall Friday. Schools like Knightstown and Southern Wells do not need to be concerned about buying costly replay equipment under Blitz’s proposal. Instead, replay would be used strictly for state championship events – primarily football and basketball.
The technology is available. At Lucas Oil Stadium last weekend, replays were routinely played seconds after a play had ended. Now, would the on-field official be able to be buzzed, then go look at a tablet or screen to examine the play? Probably not. But why couldn’t head coaches have a red challenge flag (like the NFL) that they could throw, with an officiating crew in the booth then examining the replay and confirming or overturning the call on the field?
It seems simple enough, but perhaps Blitz is missing an obvious problem here? Look, we don’t want amateur sports to become high-budget productions, but instant replay would have corrected two big incorrect calls last Friday in two separate games. Perhaps Eastbrook would have went on to defeat Western Boone and won its first-ever state championship?
For the Panthers and their fans, they will never know for sure, and likely remember that missed call far longer than they will the high points of a successful season.
Fortunately for Bishop Dwenger, the call in its game did not cost it a state championship.
With other states adopting the practice, is it time for the IHSAA to look into instant replay?
Eastbrook fans surely would say yes.
These opinions represent those of Blitz and Outside the Huddle. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers. Follow Blitz on Twitter at Blitz_OTH