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Murphy: A lesson in sportsmanship
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The Blitz: Your source for high school football

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Sportsmanship is something that we normally take for granted on the football field.

However, it’s something every football fan reflected on after last Thursday’s display following the Oregon-Boise State football game. Obviously, most fans didn’t see the incident live since it happened in the wee hours of the morning.

However, it became the talk around every office the next day with fans reacting to University of Oregon running back Legarrette Blount punching a Boise State player in the jaw for an unknown comment in the postgame, then acting like an idiot in general when security and police had to physically remove him from the field before he hurt an innocent bystander. It was an ugly display in general and a black eye for college football’s new push for improved sportsmanship.

High school coaches could use a moment like this as what they describe in the education field as a teachable moment. Blount’s actions left him suspended from playing in games the remainder of the season, although he retains his athletic scholarship for the rest of his senior year.

“That kid could have cost himself millions of dollars in the NFL,” Johnson coach Paul Friel said. “You never want to see an incident like that period, but it’s good to see that it isn’t going to be tolerated.”

High school coaches spend time lecturing players about how to conduct themselves on the field. Even fights in practice between teammates aren’t tolerated by most coaches.

There are plenty of triggers that can make a minor incident escalate into full blown chaos during a football game, which is the most physical in nature of all high school sports.

Trash talk between players, a questionable hit, a drawn-out celebration, an intense rivalry with another program, or a questionable call by an official can all set off a physical confrontation between players on the field. An incident last week in the Jackson County-Sonoraville game resulted in the Panthers having a player suspended for their next game against Prince Avenue Christian on Sept. 18. But in general, it seems like high school football games in this area have been relatively clean in terms of players controlling their emotions.

I can only remember being at one high school football game in this area when things got out of control between players. Maybe an increased civility on the field is a result of coaches taking the time to remind players of the consequences for poor conduct. Even a personal foul in a game will result in a player’s ensuing week at practice being filled with early morning workouts to make amends for their transgressions.

With an added emphasis on sportsmanship, Friel says that poor on-the-field conduct is less an issue that it was in the past. The sentiment that boys will be boys just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Johnson’s coach saw first hand when he was in high school what can happen when an on-the-field incident goes haywire. When Friel was a sophomore at his school in Maryland, an incident at the opposing school, located in the outlying area around Washington, D.C., got entirely out of control. An incident with two players after a play ended drew both benches onto the field, and before it was all said and done, both stands had cleared with nearly all the fans mixed up in the action on the field. Police intervention was needed to defuse the situation.

Let’s hope we don’t have any incidents like that on the field.

Let the actions of one knucklehead college football player serve as an example that there are consequences for acting in the heat of the moment. Even though football is a very physical sport that doesn’t mean it can’t still be kept clean.

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