Right Choice In A Tough Situation

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Longhorn punter Nick Herring found himself in a pickle no prep football player wants to be a part of during the Longhorns 16-14 state tournament loss to Coolidge.

With the game tied 14-14 midway through the fourth quarter, Herring was called upon to punt with his back to the end zone.

The long snap from center sailed over his outstretched arms and into the end zone.

In a split second and with several hard-charging Coolidge Bears bearing down on him, the teenager had to decide whether to attempt a desperation punt or to step out of the end zone and give up the two-point safety.

To this old coach's way of thinking, Herring made the correct choice in giving up the safety.

Many armchair quarterbacks, who have never coached the high school game, will second-guess his decision.

But by giving up two points, he possibly saved five points the Bears would have scored had they tallied a TD.

Even if Herring had been able to get off a punt, it likely would have not gone far because he was scrambling away from defenders.

Also, many of his teammates were attempting to block opponents and wouldn't have been in position to pursue a Coolidge punt returner.

Which could have meant the Bears would have good field position near the Horn goal line.

Also after the punt, Payson had an offensive opportunity to score a game-winning TD or field goal, but that chance ended when the Bears Kevin Mitchell intercepted a Longhorn pass attempt.

Some high school punters go their entire careers and never find themselves in a position similar to the one Herring was involved in last Friday night.

But fate played a cruel trick on the PHS senior and he made a splitsecond decision that was in the best interest of his team.

Herring and his teammates will gather a final time Dec. 13 for the season-ending awards banquet. The time and location will be announced later.

Talking to the coach

Second-year Longhorn coach Josh Anderson has had a few days to reflect on the gut-wrenching loss that ended hopes for the school's third third state football title.

He's agreed to share some of his thoughts:

"What a great year we had. We may not have gotten to the final game, but it sure wasn't a lack of effort.

"There are 28 teams trying to win a state championship and 27 of them are going to be disappointed at the end of the year. We had a great start to the season, beating four playoff teams in our five game nonregion schedule.

"Then we showed great leadership in holding the ship together after going 0-3 to begin the region schedule.

"We had a great turn-around season, going from four wins (last year) to four losses (in 2007). It's never easy to lose a game, but it's also a unique situation when the only teams that beat us are the four teams left in the final four.

"Even with our four losses, there is always room for us to improve physically and mentally. I feel like in three of the four losses we beat ourselves. We have learned to play together and trust each other to fight through adversity. Now the next step is to play smarter, complete games every night.

"The foundation has been laid and the process of adding on to the Longhorn football tradition is going to get better and better each year. No more sporadic bursts of excellence, followed by a couple of years of doubt.

"I feel we have the most dedicated parents, community, coaching staff and athletes who are going to accomplish the necessary steps years after year to keep this program commpeting at the highest level."

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