In the spirit of full disclosure let me say I am the play-by-play voice for the Paradise Bobcats, and In my 16 years of providing play-by-play of North State sporting events, primarily Chico State athletics, I don't know if I have seen two teams more evenly matched than the 2012 versions of the Paradise Bobcat and Enterprise Hornet football teams.
The two teams played two epic football games during this 2012 season, and it culminated with an amazing back-and-forth game on Saturday night. The Enterprise Hornets were able to drive 80 yards in 1:14 seconds to pull off a thrilling 36-35 win over the Paradise Bobcats.
For me to focus solely on one play in this game would be short-change the amazing performances on both sides of the ball by two determined teams who wanted to capture North State supremacy.
For Enterprise, I thought their senior quarterback Zack Trueblood showed tremendous poise and resilency in leading his team on Championship Saturday. Despite throwing three interceptions, his ability to shake off his own miscues and perform at such a high level was amazing. Senior running back Brad Woods had a stand-out game as well, with touchdown runs of 27 and 32 yards in the first half. The co-captain was hard to handle for the Bobcat defense. Wide receiver Brock Barr had several big catches, that were instrumental in the Hornet win. When you throw-in the amazing lateral from Woods to Taylor Angley at the final gun of the first half for an improbable score, and with clutch performances from sophomores Izzy Matthews and Justin Abney......you have several reasons why Enterprise is a deserving champion.
For Paradise, they simply gave everything they had. With senior quarterback Tommy Hays leading a punishing running attack, he led the team beautifully for four quarters. Junior running back Jonathan Dixon was superb, running over and through so many Enterprise defenders that they simply needed multiple helmets to bring him down. The Bobcat line providing huge holes for Dixon and Matt Machado to take advantage of, and with Johnny Porter using his speed off the edge for two scores, the Bobcats were primed and ready for a celebration in Redding, but it was not to be.
As we have illustrated there were several signature plays in the game, but none more torturous for Bobcat fans than the third play from scrimmage on Enterprise's game-winning drive. The play we are talking about happened with just over a minute to go and Paradise leading 35-28. Enterprise had the ball at their own 46 facing a 2nd and 10. Trueblood went back to pass and eye-balled Travis Hall 20 yards down field. Tom Hays had outside coverage, as the ball was in mid-air, Hays made his play for the ball. As the three video angles I have seen show us, Hays did not make contact with Hall, instead he manuevered his 6'3 frame behind Hall and leapt high in the air. As the ball arrived, Hays arched his upper torso away from Hall, reaching high in the air and securing, what looked like a game ending interception. Not so fast.
As the video shows, the side judge who was trailing the play and who had one of the worst possible angles to see the play threw his flag. He called Hays for pass interference negating the game-ending play and giving Enterprise another shot. What Enterprise did with that one shot will go down in North State football lore and will be celebrated for years to come by the Enterprise faithful. But, let's look at how Paradise fans will view it.
In all honesty I sensed more venom by Bobcat players and fans over the 2009 officiating interpretation debacle. Maybe Paradiseans are resigned to the fact that they may never beat Enterprise is a close Section Title game. Losing amid controversy on a late pass interference call in 2000 to Enterprise 16-12. Falling in the quirky "illegal participation/substitution" game in 2009. But this, THIS was an absolute egregious call at the most inopportune of times. A call that will simply be known at the "Phantom PI" for years to come. From the outside looking in one can not criticize the rabid Paradise football fan for feeling slighted. They have seen this movie before. They know how it ends. For the third time in 12 years a yellow hankie fell from the heavens to bail out their bitter rivals. Its a tough swallow. Dare I say, if Enterprise fans had to endure what Bobcat fans have had to over the last decade plus they would also have a bitter taste.
In covering Chico State, Butte College and high school football and basketball in the North State for the last 16 years I have seen everything imaginable from teams, players and officiating crews. Nothing is worse than Anthony Crozier's technical foul call on the Chico State bench with one second to go against UC Davis in 1998 costing the Wildcats a chance at victory against the eventual National Champion Aggies, but, my friends, Saturday's injustice is close.
My personal view after watching the video replays of this turning-point play is that the official simply couldn't believe what he saw. Tommy Hays play was so good, and Hays was so adept at contorting his body to NOT touch Travis Hall that the official could not imagine a player could make that type of play from where Hays was in relation to Hall. Simply, Hays' play in my estimation duped the official who thought he saw something that didn't actually happen. Most players would go "THROUGH" the receiver and hit the receiver before the ball arrives. This is what I "think" the official saw.
One more point, if the pass interference was so obvious, why was the side judge along the Enterprise side-line the only official to throw a flag. The back-judge had a great angle at the play...no flag. Even the umpire had a clear angle of the play....no flag. The one official, who literally had to be the second coming of Clark Kent, was the ref who threw the flag. T.J. Holmes of the Redding Record Searchlight has the closest video shot of the play. While the coaches video from the top of the press box clearly shows Hays never touches Hall until he has both hands securing the football. These are truly amazing angles of the play showing it from start to finish. One from the field, and the other from the sky.
Many of my Redding brethren have claimed that the official noticed contact before the ball arrived (contrary to video evidence,) heck even some Enterprise faithful are saying it was an "obvious" pass interference (laughable.) To say this is to be living in an alternate reality. Intellectual honesty is imperative if you are to debate this point. Unless there is some video that I am missing, I can not see how anyone can be intellectually honest and say that Hays didn't make a spectacular play on the ball and intercept Trueblood's pass. The video evidence is simply over-whelming.
I think an admonition by Enterprise that "yeah, we won, and got a break," would go a long way in soothing the frustration. On the other hand, is it Darren Trueblood's responsibiltiy to make Paradise feel a little bit better about things ? No. But, it would go a long way in soothing the vitriol. But, nary a peep from Hornet Nation. And, if they have voiced such thoughts, it's not being publicized.
In closing, this is high school football, and I feel fortunate to witness these epic and downright thrilling match-ups between these two bitter rivals. If your a Paradise fan it will be an agonizing off-season thinking about what might have been, for Enterprise the fruits of victory are "Oh so sweet." Bobcat fans have to realize that in the pendulum of life things always even out. And, while many Bobcat faithful may not be here to see it, there will come a time, there will come a day, when Paradise is playing Enterprise for all the marbles and in the waning moments a flag will come raining from the heavens, and that flag will go Paradise's way. It has to, you see, because that is how life works. The pendulum will swing Paradise's way EVENTUALLY and give them a call.......or two or three.