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JONFINEPRODUCTIONS.COM NEWSLETTER 11/25/22

GOD BLESS UKRAINE AND THE USA!!!!

QUARTERFINALS...Coach Brett Beard’s Denham Springs HS Yellow Jackets will entertain Ruston HS in the third round of the playoffs. Sport N Center Yellow Jackets Warmup comes your way at 6:00 pm this evening. Josh Ward and Mitch Covington are on the call. I’ll be contributing to pre-game, half-time and post-game. Tune in to Family Radio, 91.9 FM, Baton Rouge or on the net at JonFineProductions.com

TODAY’S COLUMN: …Historic Football Game last Friday night!. Please scroll down to see FINE IDEAS below.

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FINE IDEAS

By Jon Fine

One for the ages!

I have been part of over (a rough guesstimate) 2,000 game broadcasts in my life in an on-air capacity. As a sports fan, I have seen over (a real rough guesstimate) 20,000 games in my life. I played soccer in high school and a year of college (on the sub-varsity team). I sat on a 2-17 high school basketball team. 

I have never previously seen the likes of what took place—the drama, the incredibly improbable ending, the surrealness—last Friday night. I would be astonished if I ever have this type of experience again.

Second round high school football playoff game, Denham Springs HS Yellow Jackets at Benton HS Tigers.

Benton scored on its second and third possessions, taking a 14-0 lead about ½ way through the first quarter. This was the score at the end of the first quarter.

The Jackets missed a 24-yard field goal, after starting the series at the Benton 9, after a snap to the Benton’s punter was over his head, about mid-way through the second quarter. Denham Springs finally got on the scoreboard with qb Reese Mooney’s 15-yard touchdown pass to CamRon Eirick, with just over a minute left until halftime. Tigers 14 Jackets 7. It looked like coach Brett Beard’s Jackets had gotten momentum heading into the second half, when they would receive the opening kickoff. Benton had other ideas as they drove for a touchdown which extended their lead to 21-7 at the half.

Denham Springs did not score on its first possession of the second half. Benton drove into the red zone, where they faced a 4th and 2 at the Denham Springs 12-yard line. Despite having a decent kicker, the Tigers went for it. Quarterback Gray Walters was stopped for no gain by the swarming Jackets defense, with Jed Cambre making the tackle. —This is maybe the play of the game. The Jackets scored on their second possession after turning the Tigers over on downs. Mooney connected with Eirick from 33 yards out and Denham pulled within 21-14 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter. This was the score after 3 quarters.

In the last minute of the third quarter, the Jackets recovered an onside kick. Eli Digirolamo, who recovered the onside kick, threw the ball up in the air in celebration. 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty. Denham Springs starts its possession at its 39-yard line. The Jackets then drove inside the Benton 10 shortly into the fourth quarter. For the second time, they were repelled inside the Benton 10, this time as a broken play errant lateral was recovered by Benton. The Tigers did not score on this possession, but did on the next, taking a 28-14 lead with 5:16 left.

The Jackets then scored on its second play of its ensuing series, as Mooney hit Micah Harrison for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Denham misses the extra point.  It is Benton 28 Denham Springs 20 with 4:50 remaining.

Denham Springs recovers another onside kick. It is Digirolamo once again. As Jackets color commentator Mitch Covington noted, this time Eli walked up to the official and handed the ball to him. No unsportsmanlike penalty this time. Call it Comic Relief!

Fourth and 6 from the Benton 46-yard line. The Jackets go for it. Mooney hits Eirick, again, for a 46-yard touchdown. The Jackets 2-point conversion attempt is thwarted. Benton 28 Denham Springs 26 3:59 remaining. 

The Jackets try another onside kick. This one might have been the best one of the 3 attempted all night. It went off a Benton player and it looked like the Jackets had recovered. The Jackets players on the field are gesticulating positive energy! But, then as the pile is unscrambled, Benton starts celebrating. It was Tigers football.

Benton starts at their own 49. Jackets stellar DB Da’Shawn McBride undercuts a route. Gets 2 hands on the football. He stumbles, looses control of the football and a Pick 6 or at least the Jackets getting the ball at midfield goes by the wayside. Instead, it is just an incomplete pass.

Benton punts…. something they rarely do, and it sets the Jackets back at their 2-yard line with 2:11 left. Jackets down by 2 points. Denham Springs advances to their 40-yard line, where it is 4th and 10. Mooney drops back to pass. He does not like his passing options and scrambles to the left side, where there is a lot of open real estate. Mooney reaches the 49-yard line, one yard away from the first down, where he trips over his own feet and falls at the 49-yard line.

Benton ball. 1:01 left. Jackets have 2-time outs remaining. Benton takes 2 snaps, with Walters running around with the ball a little bit before taking a knee and the Jackets expend their 2 timeouts. Then all hell breaks loose. Benton receiver Pearce Russell, one of the best football players the Jackets have seen this year, takes a direct snap and runs around the left side. He gains some yards and then backtracks. His goal was not to pick up yardage but to eliminate time from the clock. Benton is tackling Denham Springs players all during this play, eliciting numerous yellow flags. —This is good strategy on their part. The officials take about 5 minutes to determine where the ball should be placed, what down it is and how many seconds there should be on the clock, which shows 38 seconds. Added to the equation is that an official had inadvertently blown a whistle during the play. The officials determine that, after Denham Springs had accepted the penalty, there would be 44 seconds on the clock. It is a repeat of third down, but Benton is back near their 20. Benton takes a quick knee. It is 4th down. The Benton side of the stands is lining up to rush the field, many standing near the fence that separates the track from the field. They are chanting down the game clock 10 9 8 7. I’m starting to think about all the people to thank on what I think will be our last broadcast of the year….6 5 4 3….. Benton snaps the ball with about 2 or 3 seconds left. The quarterback takes another knee. The play clock stops with .6 seconds left.  Denham Springs Football!

Hero alert. In a conversation I had last night with Covington, it is pointed out to me that Jackets defensive end Alex Chandler had penetrated through the Benton offensive line on both the (second) third down and fourth down play, causing Benton quarterback Walters to take a knee a lot quicker than he would have liked. Without Chandler’s plays, the Jackets probably would not have had their final possession.

Caleb LeBlanc, who had previously missed an extra point and a 24-yard field goal (but let us not forget that he had executed 3 terrific onside kicks) is called on to attempt a 31-yard field goal. It is good. Jackets play-by-play announcer says something to the effect of “JACKETS WIN! JACKETS WIN! JACKETS WIN! Denham Springs 29 Benton 28 FINAL!!!”

Benton coach Reynolds Moore said he felt the officials stole the game from his kids. Now, the officiating was a bit spotty throughout. But, if coach Moore wanted someone to blame, he needed to look in the mirror.

1.       There was no functioning play clock throughout the ballgame. This made it very difficult on the players of both teams as well as the officials. Some of the confusion in the last minute of play after Benton’s first third down play could have been avoided had there been an operational play clock. Not having a play clock cannot be blamed on the officials. Ultimately, it falls on Benton High School.

2.      Benton going for it on 4th and 2 from Denham’s 12-yard line, midway through the 3rd quarter, with the Tigers up by 14 points was the wrong decision. Who knows what happens if the field goal kicker is brought on and converts and Benton has a 3-score advantage?

3.      The conventional way that most teams call plays when they are up by 2 points with 1:01 left with the ball at midfield and the opposing team having 2 timeouts would be to run your offense, perhaps with a run to the boundary, making sure that your Back is instructed to hold onto the football and stay inbounds. You do this the first 3 plays and then there should not be an issue with what to do on 4th down, as the clock would have most likely expired after the third down play. At worst, you punt the ball on fourth down and there would be less than 10 seconds remaining when Denham Springs got possession of the ball deep in its own territory. Had Benton employed this strategy, they probably win the football game.

I tried to think of other Denham Springs Football games that could approach this one in which I was part of an announcing team—often the play-by-play announcer—and remembered Josh Lewis’ long field goal to defeat Covington at the final gun. I remembered Reggie Williams making big play after big play in a thrilling win at Central to win at the very end. So, I contacted former Jackets coach Dru Nettles to recall his biggest wins as a coach at his alma mater. He texted me on Saturday:

--Catholic High 2008 at Olympia Stadium. Blaine Posey has a pick 6. Hezy Washington blocks an extra point. The Jackets force a missed field goal on the last play of the game. DSHS 7 Catholic 6.

--Josh Lewis kicks a 47-yard field goal at the final gun as Denham wins at Covington 17-14 in 2008.

--Cole Spear’s interception seals a 21-14 win over Catholic HS at Yellow Jackets Stadium in 2011.

--The Jackets, who had lost 26-0 to Woodlawn the first game of the 2014 season, avenges that defeat with a 34-7 playoff win at Woodlawn HS, the program’s first playoff win since 1995.

But coach Nettles texted that he is not sure any of these would compare with the (Denham Springs win over Benton) last night. I agree.

As the producer of these broadcasts and contributor to Sport N Center Jackets Warmup, A&A Discount Tires Half-Time Report and Ralph Sellers Chevrolet Post-Game Show, I am only peripherally involved with the actual on-air broadcast. So, I am not sure if I should be making comparisons with other games I broadcast in year’s past, when I was often the play-by-play broadcaster.  But I will.

One game stands out. 1986. second round of the playoffs. I was the Barbe play-by-play announcer. The Buccaneers were traveling to North Louisiana to play legendary coach Charlie Brown’s Neville Tigers. The Bucs and the Tigers went to double overtime. Barbe’s Kevin Caldwell caught a game winning touchdown in the back left corner of the endzone. My call went something like,” Bucs win. Bucs win. Bucs win.” Then I lost control, got really emotional and blurted out “Take that Monroe. Take that Monroe”. Why I said that I don’t know. I actually liked Monroe, thought that Northeast Louisiana football coach Pat Collins and Basketball coach Mike Vining were always nice when I dealt with them in my capacity as a sports-talk host and McNeese play by play announcer. The folks at Neville were great to deal with. So, what I said made no sense. But I do remember how emotional I was when my team won. This was a feeling I experienced last Friday night….albeit in a vastly diminished on-air presence.

When LSU stunned #1 Florida 28-21 in 1997, coach Gerry DiNardo, at his press conference on the following Monday, initially refused to discuss the Florida win. DiNardo only wanted to focus on the next opponent Ole Miss. There was legitimate concern that LSU would experience a Florida “hangover” and not be prepared for an outmatched Ole Miss team. And, that is what happened, as LSU lost at home to Ole Miss 36-21.

Denham Springs has its work cut out for itself vs Ruston, the #1 seed, tonight at Yellow Jackets Stadium, as it is. But if you are a Jackets fan and should feel the inclination to share this column with others, PLEASE DO NOT forward this article to anyone affiliated with Denham Springs Football until after this evening’s contest!

Go Jackets!

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