Following the next to last play of last Friday night's football game between Burr and Burton Academy and Fair Haven, a BBA football player lay motionless on his back about two yards outside the endzone, his hands clasped over his facemask. If it hadn't been for the play that had just unfolded, one would have thought that the player may have been injured.

But injury can come in many forms. In this particular situation it was the agony of all but being not only defeated, but eliminating all hope of securing a playoff berth on a play that should not have been allowed to continue.

Following a touchdown by Fair Haven that made the score 35-34 with BBA leading, Fair Haven brought their offense back out onto the field - as they had done all night - to attempt the two point conversion. After the snap the ball went to senior running back Tyler Rice who ran it up the gut, but BBA stopped his forward progress and began to drive him back slightly. Rice's forward progress was stopped about a yard shy of the endzone and as more BBA defenders converged he began to collapse into the pile. But before he did, he tossed the ball backwards onto the ground where it was picked up by Fair Haven quarterback Ryan Alexander who ran for the corner. A few seconds later, before the referee had given the official signal, the Fair Haven fans erupted in cheers. Moments later the referee's hands went up, signaling the two point conversion was good.

The play was the most significant of all the questionable calls that the officiating crew had made that evening, several of which went against the Bulldogs.


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In football, when forward progress is stopped the ball carrier is considered down and the play is whistled dead. Why the referees - all of them witnessing the play on the field - felt that the play should be allowed to continue is bewildering. To have a game of that magnitude be determined by what was a no call is unfortunate to say the least, particulary during a game in which BBA came back to take the lead after getting themselves into an early 22-6 hole.

The call - while the most crucial one made during the game - was not the only one that the refs made mistakes on throughout night though. Early in the third quarter, BBA was around the 20 yard line in their own territory when they handed off to running back Will Tucker who rushed toward the right side of the field. Moments later, the whistle blew and Fair Haven was called for a face mask penalty - a 15 yard penalty. However, for whatever reason, BBA was only awarded 5-yards for the penalty.

With 48.1 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and BBA up 35-28, Fair Haven came to the line for second down and 10 at the BBA 23 yard line. On that play it was BBA who was called for a face mask penalty setting up first and goal from the 8 yard line with about 35 seconds remaining. Four plays later, Fair Haven had scored the touchdown that would set up the most controversial call of the night.

It's understandable that the refs are only human and do the best they can. After all, it's not as if they have instant replay - something more concrete they can review in such situations. Still, there are some things like the face mask penalty called against Fair Haven that resulted in only five yards that are so basic that they should not be missed. It's baffling how none of the refs pointed out that face mask penalty should have been 15 yards instead of five just as it is equally perplexing to wonder how at least one of the two line judges did not make the call that forward progress was stopped.

What solution there is - if any - to attempt to eliminate mistakes in important games remains to be seen, but maybe it's at least worth discussing if it hasn't been already. It's hard enough for athletes to digest a loss in a significant game that comes by the smallest of margins, but it's an even harder pill to swallow if the loss is the result of a questionable call. For that reason every effort should be made - and potential measures at least considered - to make sure the call is correct.