by Stormy Anderson & Brandon Robinson|Contributing Writers
The game ended 91 to 0 with the Aledo Bearcats taking out the Western Hills Cougars with a score that many thought was unreasonable. A Western Hills parent, troubled by the on the field slaughter, followed up with a bullying complaint lodged straight at coach Buchanan and his staff. The rest was left to CNN and Fox News and just about any other media to tell, leaving this relatively unknown Texas town in the national spotlight.
“Well first of all, when we had our pre-game meeting with the game officials, I talked to the officials about when and how we could run the clock and…if the game got out of hand,” Buchanan said, “What we did was, at the third quarter, about half way through we started running the clock even if it was an incomplete pass, or if the ball went out of bounds, or something like that. We’d run 10 to 15 seconds at a time like that, trying to speed the clock up.”
“…at the 4th quarter we went to a continuous clock where we wouldn’t stop for anything regardless if it was a touchdown, timeout, incomplete pass, it was just 12 minutes run off the clock,” Buchanan said, “We basically cleared the bench by the start of the 4th quarter, so everybody was playing.”
According to Coach Buchanan, he did everything possible to slow down the scoring, but this came with little success. Rumors even suggested that Buchanan put a lineman as running back.
“Oh no, he looked like a lineman though. He used to play tight end. We put him in at full back and let him run the football. Of course, that backfired…he even scored a touchdown run. He was running harder than the first team guy,” Buchanan said.
The Aledo football players could find no way to slow down the scoring, even with impractical tactics. This left the coach and his staff, along with just about every other coaching staff in the state, to face the question: was this a fair game or a bullying incident on the gridiron?
“I think there can be a degree of it at times, but I don’t think it’s ever indicated by the final score of a game. It’s more about the process that they go through, how things are done; but I don’t think you can just pick up a paper, read the final score of a game, and say that somebody got bullied,” Johnson high school head football coach, Ron Rittiman, said.
Coaches and players at Johnson seem to have a majority opinion, believing that bullying is only on an individual level. Several of the varsity players even take part in a guardian program aimed at squashing bullying on campus organized by STAN counselor Carrie Elliott.
“Basically , as a bunch of upperclassmen, we take an underclassmen under our wing and are just kind of there for them,” starting linebacker Jerod Vick said.
But in spite of such efforts, games with runaway scores still happen. An example of excessive scoring closer to home was a Johnson versus Lee girls’ soccer game in the 2012-2013 school year, where Johnson was ahead 8-0.
“Something we did was, without saying anything to the other coach, without saying anything to the ref, was put one person in , and take two people out. It made the other team recognize that we were taking more people off,” head soccer coach Stracener said.
Coaches from around the state in every varsity sport deal with games of this nature at some point in their career. Coaches don’t strive to achieve these sort of games, but due to the nature of competition, they continue to happen.
“Blowout games don’t help either team. They don’t help the winning team and they darn right don’t help the losing team,” Rittiman said.
There are two ways that such games can be dealt with: there can either be a mercy rule implemented to prevent extreme results from occurring, or the losing team can take from the loss and begin to fix the holes in their game. Coach Buchanan has received, what he believes, to be too much criticism for beating another team.
“…too many parents, instead of telling their kids, ‘Hey we’re gonna go out in the back and teach you how to block and tackle,’ they
say ‘Hey, you Aledo kids don’t need to play so hard,’” Buchanan said.
Bullying is a situation that continues to grow in complexity; therefore, the way in which it is dealt with, will be a topic of discussion of the UIL for much time to come.
“They want you to try hard just like you want them to play hard,” said Buchanan.