As you may have heard by now, Torrington reached its second consecutive Class 3A title game by beating Jackson 22-21 on Friday, scoring a touchdown as time ran out before notching the game-winning two-point conversion.

You may have also heard that Jackson supporters were not happy about the way in which the clock was turned on or off in the final few moments of the game — specifically, the final six plays.

Local News 8, the ABC station in Idaho Falls, covered this controversy. Kind of. Unfortunately, the story posted doesn’t match the video of what actually happened. (For example, the story says Torrington never went out of bounds in the final six plays, when Torrington did on its third play of the six; it also notes a fumble “blown dead” that could have happened on the same play, but player and official reactions show that the play was clearly over before the ball came loose.)

So let’s set the record straight.

Well, as straight as we can with gifs.

For this post, I watched the NFHS Network replay of Friday’s game. I timed each play in Torrington’s final drive and compared the announced times on the KGOS/KERM radio broadcast that accompanied the video feed to times I compiled by hand. (The images in this post come from that NFHS Network feed and are used here under fair use journalistic purposes.)

On its final drive, Torrington went 67 yards in 17 plays in 1 minute, 10 seconds. The first 11 plays were pretty standard, with no huge timing problems that I noticed.

The dispute really centers on the final six plays of the game, which Torrington ran in 10.4 seconds without the use of a timeout. (Neither team had any timeouts remaining by this point.) The first two plays were incomplete passes, each running about two seconds off the clock. Let’s take a look at gifs of those two plays.

Play 1

Play 2

 

So far, so good. No controversy. After the first two plays, the announcers from KGOS/KERM radio say the clock is down to 6.3 seconds. I hand-timed these two plays myself and ended up with a similar number of where the clock should be (I had it at 6.0, an acceptable range of difference).

Play 3 is where things start to go a little haywire. On this play, Torrington’s Bryan Lemmon catches a swing pass and is knocked out of bounds. The play takes about 4.6 seconds, according to my stopwatch.

Play 3

This should put the game clock at about 2.2 seconds remaining. (We don’t know what the clock read at this point, because it’s not announced on the audio feed. However, we can assume the clock read more than 2.2 seconds, based on the play call that follows and the reaction of the players after that play.)

Play 4 in the sequence adds to the questions. On fourth-and-1, Lemmon takes a pitch and plows for three yards, reaching the 2-yard line for a first down. The clock stops at this point to reset the chains. By my watch, this play takes 4.1 seconds.

Play 4

The clock starts before Play 5 begins. Play 5 is a spike to stop the clock after the chains are set for the first down. And Torrington does so nice and fast — in 0.9 seconds, according to my watch, from the signal to start the clock to when the ball hits the ground. (In this gif, watch the white hat ref on the right side; also watch the umpire stopping the ball from being snapped until the signal is given to go. This follows proper timing rules.)

Play 5

Play 6 is Lemmon’s 2-yard touchdown. The radio announcers say that, prior to this play, 1.6 seconds remained on the clock. And it doesn’t matter how long this play takes, because (as every player and coach knows) scoring on a play after time has run out is OK as long as the snap happens before the clock runs out.

Play 6

After this touchdown, Lemmon scored on the 2-point conversion to send Torrington back to the 3A title game.

The five plays prior to the game-winning touchdown took, by my stopwatch, 15.4 seconds. The Torrington clock operator said those same five plays took 8.8 seconds.

+++

Ultimately, Torrington won the game, and Torrington will play for a state championship. As Local News 8’s Max Cohan noted on Twitter (via a screencap of an email Cohan says is from Jackson AD Mike Hansen), the WHSAA isn’t in the habit of overruling game officials.

The WHSAA has rarely intervened in cases like this. In fact, I can find only one instance in which the WHSAA has overruled game officials. That came in 1967 in a game between Basin and Byron. Basin originally won 40-34 by scoring in the final minute of their game on Oct. 27, but Byron protested the game’s final 2 minutes, 24 seconds after claiming the officials mis-applied the rules on a fumble. The WHSAA upheld the protest, and the WHSAA forced the two teams to re-play the final 2:24 three days later. No one scored and the game finished as a 34-34 tie, officially.

The only other high-profile questionable timing incident I know of came even further back than that: the final game of the 1955 season between Laramie and Cheyenne Central. Laramie won 18-14 on its home field to claim the Class AA championship, but Cheyenne filed a protest claiming “timing irregularities” gave Laramie an unfair advantage. Two Cheyenne players also punched and tackled an official after he ejected a Cheyenne player. Although the protest was eventually tossed, the timekeeper that day, Edwin Hitchcock, died just days after the game due to a heart attack.

More recently, the most controversial final-play playoff finish came in a Class 5A semifinal game in 2006. In that game, Natrona kicker Garrett Hill’s field goal attempt on the final play of the game was ruled wide left, despite video showing that the kick may have actually gone between the uprights as it went over the top of the left post. Cheyenne East won that game 5-3. Then as now, the WHSAA delegated that responsibility to the officials on the field and supported the ruling the officials made on the field.

The same standard applies here. If Jackson fans have a beef, it’s with the officials, not with the WHSAA. I daresay the beef isn’t even with the timer, who I don’t want to name here (and couldn’t even if I wanted to, because I haven’t asked and don’t plan to). However, if you think you can do better than the officials, prove it by becoming a WHSAA official. It’s a hard and thankless job, especially when we (you and me) can watch replay after replay and critique tenths of a second of their in-the-moment calls and decisions. I thought hard about whether to even post this, because I think many people will use this post as an excuse to trash the game officials and timer even more. Please don’t be that person.

In the course of a 48-minute game, 6.6 seconds slips off the clock, or stays on the clock, easily. To Torrington’s benefit, and Jackson’s dismay, it just so happened these 6.6 seconds came when they did.

–patrick

9 Thoughts on “The controversial finish of the Torrington-Jackson game, examined (with GIFs)

  1. Dahl Erickson on November 5, 2018 at 10:51 am said:

    Well written and well said Patrick

  2. Coach G on November 5, 2018 at 12:13 pm said:

    Nice write up Patrick….unfortunately mistakes can happen….just glad HS athletics does not have a video replay …I really do not believe that officials go out of their way to help one team over another….

  3. Jon Gilkerson on November 5, 2018 at 11:27 pm said:

    I was at the East and Natrona game in 2006 and this is the first I’ve heard about a video on that kick. I thought the fans were booing my Tbirds because we won.

  4. Good analysis. However, I disagree with the remedy being solely to become a referee if someone thinks they can do a better job. It is “a hard and thankless job” but since one part of the job is monitoring the game clock, it would be easier to thank the game officials if they had actually done it.

    The WHSAA may not be in the business of overruling officials and overturning games, but the association could certainly make a statement that there were mistakes made on the field by game officials. There should be SOME accountability and acknowledgment that time should have run out on Torrington.

  5. Pat Schmidt on November 6, 2018 at 11:56 am said:

    Another game outcome was overturned in 1960. In an early season game at Greybull, an exchange of punches by a backup Lander end and Greybull punter Tom Wilkinson resulted in both being ejected at the start of the game. With no offense without star quarterback Wilkinson (who went on to UW and CFL football fame), the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Under the California Playoff Rules at the time, the refs ruled the playoff was a new game and allowed Wilkinson to reenter. Lander started on the 50-yard-line and didn’t get far in its four downs. Greybull took over at that point with Wilkinson quarterbacking them back past the 50 (enough to win) and even a touchdown. The WHSAA overturned the Greybull win and forced a complete game to be replayed on a neutral field, Thermop instead of Greybull. Greybull won something like 33-6 and despite playing three games in 10 days, went on to win the state championship over Evanston.

  6. Valerie S Goettler on November 6, 2018 at 3:11 pm said:

    I appreciate your write up and attention to the details. It was an incredible football game fought hard by both teams. While the outcome cannot be changed, all that is being asked of the WHSAA is assurance that in the future teams that are playing in sport contests at the State level will play on neutral fields with neutral officials and with an official from the WHSAA overseeing the clock and all operations. The WHSAA let a lot of people down that night, both the winners and the losers, as the game was not decided by the teams on the field.

  7. Paul Edens on November 6, 2018 at 6:50 pm said:

    If indeed an attempted field goal passed over the top of the post, it would be no good as the rules state the ball must be completely in between the goal posts.

  8. Patrick on November 8, 2018 at 8:03 am said:

    Just wanted to follow up on the comments left so far. I really appreciate the thoughts from all of you, and I appreciate you keeping it civil. My thinking seems to grow every day about this, and it’s nice to have others’ ideas in the mix, too.

    –patrick

  9. Pingback: 2018 championship game picks: A weekend at the War | WHSFB HQ — The Wyoming high school football blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation