By getting a first down they deserved — though it took about 10 minutes for the officials to decide — the Holland High football team got a win it most definitely earned Saturday afternoon.
With about 10 ½ minutes to play in the game with Spring Lake, after the Lakers had scored to cut Holland’s lead to 22-20, the Dutch let the ensuing kickoff sail into the end zone, giving them the ball at the 20-yard line.
As football rules dictate, the nose of the ball must touch the backside of the 20-yard line, meaning all the team has to do is reach the 30-yard line for a first down.
On fourth-and-one from the 29, Holland’s Elroy Payne, who had 20 carries for 85 yards and two TDs, reached the 30-yard line and got the first-down signal from the referee.
Um, not so fast, sir.
Spring Lake coach Jerry Rabideau asked for a timeout and a measurement, which, when the down markers were brought out on to the field, indicated the ball was inches short of the first-down marker.
Holland coach Andrew Pratley pleaded his case for nearly 10 minutes, repeatedly pointing to the 30-yard line stripe that the ball was touching, which should have indicated a first down.
The officials finally conceded that the ball touching the stripe did, indeed, indicate a first down and gave the ball back to Holland.
Two plays later, Holland’s Brandon Davis broke off a 51-yard run for a touchdown and Holland won the game 28-20.
What made the first down/no first down/first down call so odd is that Holland Muncipal Stadium has artificial turf, so there’s no way the lines could be crooked. Come to find out, the guys holding the “sticks” marked their spots in the middle of the yard-line stripe, not the edge.
I saw other odd plays as well in that game.
• On Holland’s first punt the ball traveled about 15 yards, then bounced back Holland’s way when it hit the turf, allowing the punter to down his own kick.
• On another play, Holland was set to receive a punt, but the punt returner let the ball bounce in front of him, just a couple of feet away, before fielding it. He was hit, he fumbled and his team lost the ball. I’m wondering if, perhaps, he lost the ball in the sun.
• Friend and fellow writer John Jarvi, formerly of the Muskegon Chronicle, insisted that one penalty on visiting Spring Lake, an illegal substitution call (aka too many players on the field) was the result of a female trainer not exiting the turf fast enough as the play unfolded. I’m not sure about that, but I’ll take John’s word for this one.
Either way, kudos to the Holland High Dutch. They didn’t win their first game last year until the final week of the regular season. This year, after two games, they’re “batting” .500. And they’re feeling good about themselves.
Now, all they have to do is revamp their away jerseys. White numerals on white cloth with a thin red outline? Sorry, guys, it’s not working, especially for public address announcers in the pressbox. They do look nice up close, though.