The Hard Lesson

With Bloomington leading 24-17 and possessing the ball at the La Quinta 3 with 1:36 remaining in the game and the Blackhawks having no timeouts, Bloomington running back Tony Davis ran in the touchdown to seemingly clinch a 30-17 Bruin victory.

The fat lady can start singing when the butter is hard, and not one minute before the jello starts jiggling. That was the hard lesson the 40 members of the Bloomington High football team learned in its CIF-SS Eastern Division playoff game with Riverside County La Quinta on Friday.

The scenario of the game's last 96 seconds is difficult to decipher and under the confusing circumstances of youthful enthusiasm, the rational thought process of one the most successful high school coach's in the nation, went mysteriously blank.


With Bloomington leading 24-17 and possessing the ball at the La qUinta 3 with 1:36 remaining in the game and the Blackhawks having no timeouts, Bloomington running back Tony Davis ran in the touchdown to seemingly clinch a 30-17 Bruin victory.


At this point, if Bloomington takes a knee three times, the game is over.


Instead, La Quinta took the following kickoff to its 26 with 40 second left and after two incompletions, Blackhawk QB Ryan Woods scored on a 40 yard run with six seconds left. La Quinta recovered its onside kick with two seconds left. Woods immediately took the snap and hurled a 48-yard bomb to Justin Smith, who was wide open in the end zone.


Ty James kicked the extra point and La Quinta had a 31-30 win after scoring 14 points in 40 seconds, and in the process teaching everyone, it's not over till it's over, and then not unil the lights are out and the eggs are cooling. Thank you Chick Hearn.


The big boner by Bloomington coach Don Markham almost went unmentioned until it was detected by veteran Southern California sportswriter Paul Oberjuerge, who asked Markham why his team just didn't take a knee three times instead of scoring its last touchdown---knowing La Quinta had no timeouts.


"The kids wanted to pound in the touchdown and I wanted to take a knee," said Markham, who has more than 300 wins and five CIF championships as a head coach.


"They didn't take a knee and you can't change the score."


Possibly, Markham called his team to kneel, but maybe his young running back ran it in anyway.


This cruel turn of events happened in front of many high school coaches who were at the game to study Markham's double-wing offense. His long time student and friend Myron Miller, head coach at Tustin High was on the sidelines, and after the game wore a mystified look.

There were a number of issues that also happened prior to, and during the turmoil of La Quinta's winning TD strikes.


First, Bloomington had an inexperienced person working its malfunctioning game clock. If operated properly, everyone knows the clock can be the friend of the home team. Not in this case. With Bloomington in possession with 6:27 left, the clock operator had to be constantly reminded to "start the clock." In addition, when the clock did start it seemed to go into slow mode. The referees should have noticed and went to hand-held stop watches.


Secondly, the game's public address announcer was distracting his home team with a constant stream of CIF mandated commercial announcements. "We want to thank Gaterade, we want to thank Toyota, we want to thank Sports Chalet," etc, etc, etc. There are 21 of these obnoxious and diverting messages that must be announced two times each during the game. You cannot hear your team signals above this commercial noise.


Third, the Bloomington public address announcer went into his Chick Hearn routinel after the Bruins made it 30-17 with 40 seconds left. "The lights are out, butter's getting hard, the jello is jiggling." If that wasn't motivation for La Quinta, nothing else could be. Actually, "the mustard came off the hot dog" at Bloomington.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported seeing La Quinta player's crying in sorrow before its unbelievable comeback. "I thought we had lost. I thought my high school career was over," said Smith. "Right now, I don't know what to say and I don't know exactly what happened. On the last play, I was told to go deep and make the play. I'm a play maker and play maker's make plays."


La Quinta coach Dan Armstrong said because this came in a playoff situation, it was the biggest comeback win of his 26 year coaching career. "If Bloomington takes a knee, they win. I don't know why, but I'm sure glad they didn't. Don Markham is not known for taking a knee."

All said and done, the whole situation was put in perspective by 8-year-old Riverside resident Blake Morales, who said, "I find it very weird and strange that all these old people are making such a big deal about what young people do."

Yes Blake, and when you work hard to earn something, be sure to put it in your pocket before someone swipes it.

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