Thoughts from the sports desk

The talk the past week has been about how Pierre defeated Spearfish 103-0 last Thursday, in the Class AA football playoffs.

At the center of the controversy is whether there should have been a mercy rule and running clock, and why was a winless Spearfish team even in the playoffs.

Now people are asking what can be done to ensure something like this never happens again.  

First, let’s look at the mercy rule and running clock.

Nine-man football and class 11A and 11B have a mercy rule and running clock where, “when a team secures a 35 point lead in the second half, the clock will continue to run except for timeouts (team or official) or after a score. If a team secures a 35 point lead in the second half and the score subsequently falls below the 35 point mark, the clock will continue to run as outlined. If a team secures a 50-point or greater lead at the end of the first half, or if they secure such a lead during the second half, the game is ended immediately. Regulation timing is followed in the first half regardless of the score. These regulations shall be followed for all regular-season contests, as well as all first-round, quarterfinal and semifinal playoff contests. Only the 35-point running clock rule shall be in effect for state championship contests (50-point rule will not take effect in a state final contest).”

Class AA and Class AAA do not have that, though I just learned there is a provision in the National Federation of High School (NFHS) rule book that allows for games to have shortened quarters or be ended early, but coaches and officials have to agree to it. That’s why there was a running clock in the fourth quarter of the Spearfish-Pierre game. 

I have long been an advocate for a mercy rule and running clock for all classes in football, and a running clock for all classes in basketball, for years.

After sitting back and soaking in information this past week from various sources, I have softened my stance for a mercy rule in football, provided there is a running clock rule implemented.

It’s a shame that it took something like this to get people’s attention and realize things need to change.

Whether it’s cutting down on the number of classifications, or implementing a running clock.

Hopefully this will be a wakeup call for those East River activities directors that are against a running clock/mercy rule because they don’t want to drive across the state and play a half (game) of football. They look at that would be a waste of resources.

I feel bad for Pierre coach Steve Steele and the Pierre football players.

Instead of celebrating a playoff win and moving one step closer to defending their state title, they were being ostracized on Facebook and Twitter with people calling for Steele to be fired and saying that the players should be ashamed of themselves for running up the score on Spearfish.

Pierre was put in a no-win situation, and the outcome was unfortunate.

They didn’t deserve any of the backlash they got.

They played all 72 players that dressed, and it’s unfair to ask players who see little or no playing time to not play hard when their chance to finally play in a game arrives.

Want to blame someone? Blame the East River ADs who refused to implement a running clock/mercy rule.

Next, I want to address the question of why Spearfish was even in the playoffs, having not won a game all season.

In 2015, the SDHSAA approved the expansion to seven classes, while leaving Class AA with only eight teams.

By doing this, it meant all eight teams would make the playoffs regardless of their record.

Fast forward four years later, with Pierre destroying Spearfish 103-0. 

Spearfish had no business being in the playoffs.

They hadn’t won a game all year, and had lost to Pierre 72-0 a few weeks earlier in Spearfish, and then you’re asking them to go to Pierre and play them again.

What should have been done when they agreed to let only eight teams in the class was to say only six teams would advance to post season, with the top two teams receiving a bye.

Had they done that, we wouldn’t be talking about mercy rules or running clocks.

Hopefully this time they get it right, and we don’t ever have another Pierre-Spearfish debacle.

Moving on to the next topic: Tuesday, Chad McCarty resigned as the Spartans’ head coach.

I’ve known Coach McCarty for  the past six years, and there is nobody who works harder and cares about their players more than he does.

He is a great coach, who had great passion for the game of football.

He was devastated after the Pierre loss.

The Spartan football team has seen numbers decline from around 80 three years ago to around 40 this season.

Why?

People just assume it is because of the coaching staff.

You know what they say about assuming.

McCarty should get some of the blame because he was the head coach and he runs the program, but he doesn’t deserve all the blame.

For those that don’t think players are partly to blame, then there lies part of the problem as to why Spearfish football is on a decline.

If you want to change the culture for the Spearfish football program, the administration, the players, the parents, the fans, and all the coaches need to buy in to the head coach’s vision for the program.

That means administrators need to make sure the do everything possible to give the program what it needs.

The parents and fans need to not bad mouth coaches on social media just because they don’t agree with how things are run.

They need to support and cheer on the program unconditionally.

Have a problem? Talk to the coach directly, not via Facebook or Twitter. 

Players need to buy into the system completely.

That means they need to not only give 110 percent during practices and workouts during the season, but they need to give 110 percent to conditioning and weightlifting in the off-season.

Pierre, Lead-Deadwood, Belle Fourche, and Sturgis Brown are prime examples of teams whose players have bought in completely to the program and work their butts off to achieve success.

For some reason, players today have a sense of entitlement and don’t want to be held accountable.

Just remember: playing sports is not a right; it’s a privilege.

You get out of it what you put in it.

Either you’re all in and are willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better, or don’t bother coming out for the team and wasting the coaches’ and your teammates’ time.

To those who won’t play because they don’t like the coach, I’ve got bad news for you.

Throughout life, you are going to have bosses and co-workers you may not like.

What are you going to do, always quit?

Learn to succeed despite them, not fail because of them.

To the fans and parents, I advise you to let the kids carve their own path. 

Support them unconditionally.

When they fall, be there to support them, not make excuses for them as to why things didn’t go their way.

You can’t go through life blaming others for your failures.

Everyone should be charge of their own life. There will be pitfalls throughout life, but remember what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.

Learn from your mistakes and figure out what you can do to avoid making that mistake again, because history has taught us that those that don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

You want to change the culture?

Change your negative mindset to a positive one.

Help find solutions to problems, not create them with rants on Facebook or Twitter.

No more, “the players aren’t part of the problem, and I’m not part the problem, the coaches and the administrators are the ones at fault.” 

If that mentality doesn’t change, the only thing that will change will be the faces of the coaching staff every two or three years.

Either you want to be a part of the solution, or you will continue to be part of the problem.

Your call.

See you at the sporting events!

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