Dave Ruden: Staples' Petroccio handles 50-point rule the right way
Published 11:56 pm, Thursday, October 4, 2012
Petroccio said that Rob Trifone, the Senators' coach at the time, spoke to the officials at halftime, asking them to call phantom penalties on his team to keep the score manageable.
Petroccio would have none of it.
Last Friday night, Petroccio found himself in what could have been an ironic sense of role reversal against McMahon. The Wreckers jumped out to a 49-0 halftime lead, were up 55-0 early in the third quarter, and with a couple more touchdowns could have come away with a 69-0 victory.
There was one big difference between the games: the CIAC's inane score management rule where coaches who win by 50 or more points are subject to being suspended for the following game.
This is the seventh year of an artificial sweetener that brought unwanted attention to high school football in the state for attempting an act that cannot be done: legislating class.
So when the social networks were abuzz last Friday night with the prospect of Petroccio walking the precipice, I have to admit part of me wanted the 55-0 score to stand. Not due to any ill will toward Senators coach A.J. Albano, his players or Petroccio.
No, my sole motivation was Petroccio was coaching the game the right way, and perhaps putting score management back under the spotlight, in these circumstances, would be the impetus for doing away with one of the most needless rules in all of sports, at any level.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for every coach in the league and I would never look to embarrass anyone," Petroccio said. "I made a decision that I was going to play the entire JV for the second half of the game. I was not about to make a mockery of the game, and not do what I felt would embarrass A.J. and take a knee or have kids fall down. That's almost a lack of respect for the game."
Petroccio said some of his players questioned the move, for fear of losing their coach for the next game. However, McMahon scored two late touchdowns for a 55-14 final, allowing Petroccio to avoid a CIAC hearing and possible suspension.
"I told the kids I would deal with it," Petroccio said. "I don't want to embarrass anyone. What is worse, seeing a 49-0 score in the paper or being at a game and seeing people do things not natural to the sport?"
Petroccio said except for special teams, where there was not sufficient depth, he used junior varsity players the entire second half. The offense revolved around running plays off tackle.
When the Wreckers went up 55-0, Petroccio made one concession and took a knee on the conversion.
Petroccio joked how he and New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli debate the rule on their car rides to CIAC meetings; they are on the football committee. Petroccio, obviously, is against the rule. Marinelli is a proponent.
Put me in the Petroccio camp on this one. What would bring more shame to Albano and his players: losing by 60 points or facing an opponent that is not even trying?
Albano said he was comfortable with the way the Wreckers handled the second half last Friday.
"I don't have a problem one bit," Albano said. "The fact of the matter is those kids worked hard and practice every day. It came down to execution."
Albano's words applied not just to the Staples starters, but the reserves who got in for the second half, hoping to make a positive impression on their coaches and getting to play under the school's new gleaming lights.
It is possible to win a game 69-0 and not run up the score, as the Wreckers displayed. I've also seen teams, winning 21-0 in the final minute, run a trick play for a touchdown.
Which is worse?
"We've had meetings at the CIAC office and there's been some passionate discussion about it," Petroccio said. "I was not trying to make a statement whatsoever. I didn't want to embarrass McMahon or make a mockery of the game. I don't think you'll see an end to the 50-point rule. How many have broken the rule?"
A handful. That is because coaches are forced to make a charade of the game sometimes to abide by the dreaded words "score management."
Which is the only reason why I was hoping for the Wreckers' 55-0 lead to stand. Because kids are smarter than they are sometimes given credit for. Because you are occasionally going to run into louts in the real world, and that is one of sports' valuable life lessons.
And, most of all, because 50 should not be the number we think of in high school football in our state, but 48 -- the minutes in a complete game.
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