STOVALL: Spread offense take over more like a virus

During my normal Friday night football wrap-up routine of checking and posting final scores to our Facebook page and my Twitter page, I saw something that startled me.

A plethora of points. Scores by the dozen, and not just your obligatory two to three blowout wins you see every week.

It’s been a while since I saw a group of football scores that looked this close to basketball scoreboard ripoff.

Check these out:

Camden County 91-6 over Beach. Lowndes 87-0 over Windsor Forest. Even the Southern Crescent’s own Eagle’s Landing Christian got in on the action, defeating Hapeville Charter 68-6. The Chargers were one of two schools that scored 68 points on Friday. Gainesville was the other.

East Hall registered 66 points in a win over East Jackson. Buford blanked Hancock Central 63-0, and both Stephenson and Cedartown threw up a cool 62 points in their respective wins.

And we won’t even mention the nine other schools that put up 50-plus on their poor, unsuspecting opponents Friday night.

Where was the defense?

Better yet, where is football’s equivalent to the run rule in high school baseball and softball that calls for the end of a contest, and the accompanying embarrassment of the other team, after a game gets too far out of hand too fast?

On Friday there were eight teams that scored 60 or more points against their opponents. In comparison, only six teams hit the 60 point mark in the first three weeks of the season combined.

Most times, people who delve into this kind of discussion fall into one of two camps. The “let them play” camp, which says it’s not the high scoring team’s fault that the other team’s defense can’t stop them.

Then there’s the other group who says, “Show some class. Show some dignity. Take off the gas pedal. This isn’t the NFL or college football for that matter. It’s high school. Don’t embarrass the kids.”

Call ELCA coach Jonathan Gess a hybrid, perhaps, of both schools of thought.

“I definitely have the two quarters, go after it mindset,” Gess said. “I think everybody kind of doesn’t like those games. I don’t think anybody’s out here trying to embarrass anyone. In fact, we kneed the ball four times in the fourth quarter to prevent scoring 75 points.”

Georgia High School Association rules state that coaches can elect to call for a running clock in the third quarter if the score reaches at least 30 points before halftime. And there is an automatic running clock in the fourth quarter when a team has a 30-point lead.

But some coaches don’t elect to employ the running clock, even in the midst of a blowout. So what’s the winning team supposed to do? Tell their guys to take a knee after an interception to prevent a pick six?

Gess has a hard time coming to that conclusion.

“The GHSA has a rule that your JV players can only play six quarters,” Gess said. “So you can’t play them eight. You can’t sub them in until the third quarter.”

And those players, Gess said, shouldn’t be penalized by bad football.

“You’ve got a bunch of young kids who’ve been busting their tails all week,” Gess said. “Am I supposed to tell those guys not to score? I feel like they deserve to play at least two quarters, whatever the score is.”

But there’s a bigger culprit at play. The advent of spread offenses. It’s catching on like crazy nowadays, and some football purists would indeed call it a virus. Since these high-octane, high-speed scoring attacks have become the latest football fad, we’ve begun to see teams known traditionally for their defensive prowess turn into, well, something else.

Anybody see that Alabama-Texas A&M game Saturday? Highly entertaining stuff. More than 1,200 yards of offense. Ninety-one total points. Two SEC teams. Yeah, the conference of NFL-caliber defense. And former Oregon Ducks coach Chip Kelly — perhaps the poster boy for new age spread offenses — has introduced it to the League since taking over the Philadelphia Eagles.

The catch with spread offenses is that it’s really effective when a team has the personnel to execute it. And if they don’t, well, you get 91-6 and 87-0.

“You’re playing teams where everybody is running this Oregon style stuff,” Gess said. “And what people don’t understand is if you don’t have the people to make it happen, it just prolongs the game and allows the other team to get more opportunities to score points on you.”

In other words, don’t expect any scoring droughts any time soon. And if you are truly just jonesing for defensive football on the high school level, pop in some film of Friday’s Gordon Lee-Armuchee game.

Their final score? 6-2.

Gabriel Stovall covers sports for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News Daily newspapers. He can be reached at gstovall@henryherald.com or on Twitter @GabrielStovall1.