Having walked many a mile in coaches’ shoes, I’m always reluctant to criticize high school coaches.
But it’s difficult to understand what Show Low High School football coach Randy Ricedorf was thinking in the Cougars’ 67-0 win over the hapless Chinle Wildcats on Sept. 18.
From all accounts, the coach made the decision to leave his son Rathen, the starting quarterback, in the game long enough to throw a state record nine touchdown passes.
There are fans in the White Mountains saying “Shame on Ricedorf” and that Rathen’s mark is “a tarnished record.”
On one Web blog, a fan wrote, “This is insane. His daddy wants him to get what stats he can before he plays BR (Blue Ridge).”
Rathen began his aerial barrage on the Wildcats throwing a 49-yard TD pass with 9:27 remaining in the first quarter. The blitzkrieg continued until his final score, a four-yard pass, was thrown with 10:22 left in the game.
Common coaching wisdom and ethics of sportsmanship dictate a coach never runs up the score against an outmanned opponent and once the game is in hand, replace the starters with subs, freshmen and sophomores if needed.
Then, run simple dive plays in the A gaps rather than trying to throw the ball and score at will.
Former Payson High School coach Josh Anderson had plenty of opportunities last season during the Longhorns’ unbeaten state championship season to leave in his starters to run up the score and build individual and team statistics.
He and defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes refused to do so, often replacing starters with younger players, usually sophomores.
Believe it or not, there were some complaints from those in the crowd who were there to see the first line players and how large the victory margin could become.
I remember both Anderson and Hayes being irked with those fans, but publicly refusing to criticize them.
Hearing about coach Ricedorff’s strange decision to leave in his starting QB and continue to throw to run the score up reminded me of former Show Low High School principal and ex-Snowflake Lobo coach Monty Harris.
In 1984 I was the head football coach at Show Low and Harris was my boss. Because he had head coaching experience I cherished his wisdom.
One fall day, we were boarding a bus for a game in Ganado. Harris approached me with a stern warning that under no circumstances was I to run up the score against the Hornets.
I don’t know where that warning came from because I’d never run up the score against an opponent.
I suspected Monty believed Ganado was a typical reservation team and therefore not very good in football.
But in Ganado, my Cougars ran into a literal Hornets’ nest.
If my memory serves me, a young man named Mike Morgan, now the highly successful St. Johns head coach, coached Ganado.
We escaped Ganado that fall evening with a hard-fought victory, I believe by a single touchdown.
On the bus trip home, our staff discussed Monty’s warning, so we asked him about it the following Monday morning.
He refused to give much of a reason for the warning saying only we were an aggressive, hard-nosed coaching staff and he wanted to be sure there were no hard feelings in Ganado when we left.
“Respect all your opponents,” he told me privately.
With advice like that, it’s too bad Monty wasn’t still in Show Low when Ricedorf and his team boarded the bus for Chinle.