Seems like every couple of years, there's a really lopsided blowout in an area high school football game that raises all the usual alarm bells about running up the score and what is the sportsmanlike thing to do in situations like that.
Normally, I say the first half is fair game, anything goes, and if a team can't stop a team from scoring at will, that's on them. In the second half, that's when a team should think about calling off the dogs against a clearly beaten opponent — get younger players in the game and run the ball more.
Here's why Cambridge's 75-30 rout of Warrensburg on Saturday night does NOT (mostly) fall into the category of running up the score:
— It's a playoff game. It was a Section II Class D semifinal playoff game between two 7-1 teams. This was not Cambridge destroying a winless Cohoes team by, say, 75-0. This was a game between two very good teams that are ranked in the state.
— Starters need to play sometime. The way the season has unfolded for Cambridge, the Indians have played almost all blowout wins. With the exception of their 43-38 loss to Greenwich on Sept. 30, the Indians starters have played an average of two quarters a game before giving way to the reserves. The Cambridge starters need to play sometime for conditioning's sake — especially heading into a championship rematch with Greenwich — so they played at least three quarters against Warrensburg.
— No running time. Warrensburg head coach Mike Perrone could have agreed to let the clock run in the second half, once the game was well out of hand (Cambridge led 61-8 in the third quarter). But understandably, Perrone is building a program, and he wanted his players to play to the end and "not roll over gracefully." I find absolutely no fault with Perrone's thinking on this, but with the clock progressing normally through the second half, it created more time for scores to happen.
— The short field was self-inflicted. The biggest issue in the game that led to the lopsided score was the fact that Warrensburg did not punt. Lacking a punter for this game — head coach Mike Perrone said his regular punter missed two practices last week and did not play — the Burghers went for it on every fourth down, regardless of where they were on the field, but only converted two of 10 fourth downs. Six times, that gave Cambridge the ball in Warrensburg territory, and five times the Indians scored touchdowns on drives of 40-50 yards or fewer. If Warrensburg had punted some, perhaps it would have taken Cambridge longer to score some of their touchdowns. That would have taken more plays and more time, so the Indians might have scored two or three fewer TDs, and maybe the score might have been something like 54-30 instead of 75-30. At some point, though, a team has to stop its opponent.
— Warrensburg was scoring touchdowns. It's not like Warrensburg could not score, though the Burghers certainly struggled to get going in the first half, as they trailed 47-8 at the half. They got rolling in the second half against a mix of starters and backups on Cambridge's defense.
— Yes, the last Cambridge TD was a little in-your-face. The one exception or caveat to the old "running up the score" argument is the Indians' final touchdown. With about five minutes left, Perrone called time out after his team had scored again to pull within 68-30. Cambridge head coach Doug Luke responded by putting his first-string offense back in the game for one more touchdown, which they got in two plays. Luke said he did it to protect his JV players, who had been in the game facing Warrensburg starters. I'll buy part of that anyway — I also think Luke wanted to get the game over and run the clock, but Perrone wanted to prolong it by calling a timeout, so Luke had his team score again. Yes, it was a wholly unnecessary touchdown, but it is part of the gamesmanship of football — like a brush-back pitch in baseball.
— Warrensburg has done it, too. Two local coaches have expressed their misgivings that the Burghers called timeouts and scored unnecessary touchdowns during games this season. Remember, Warrensburg went 7-2 this season and some of their wins were very lopsided, just like Cambridge's.
Anyway, that's just my two cents on a wild and weird Saturday night of football.
Correction -- Cambridge senior running back Jonas Butz rushed for 182 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Indians on Saturday. I got distracted on my running tally and left Butz's 65-yard touchdown out of the tally, so I had given him only 117 yards and three scores in the individual stats on the game box score. So Butz nearly matched the 188 yards and four touchdowns that Warrensburg's Trevor Prosser gained in the game.