A season that started in the disarray of a teachers’ strike ended in controversy for the Ballenas Whalers senior football team on Saturday in Vancouver.
In short, the Whalers were robbed. And there’s no second chance for the seniors on this team who have put years of effort, sweat, blood and commitment into this program.
What’s worse, the governing body of B.C. high school football doesn’t seem to care about these kids or the integrity of the sport it administers.
Coach Jeremy Conn and others have built the Ballenas program into a provincial force. Much more than the results on the field, or the sport itself, high school football teaches the value of teamwork and the importance of effort in all facets of life.
Saturday, on a snowy and cold UBC field, an error by officials destroyed the dreams of a team that was one play short of playing for the provincial championship this weekend on the big stage at B.C. Place.
It was overtime. The team from Mission scored a touchdown. Mission could have kicked a convert to tie and extend the game. Instead, the Mission coach decided to go for a two-point convert to win, a gutsy call for sure. On that play, video evidence clearly shows a Mission player down in the backfield. The referee, only a few yards away, was looking right at the player with the ball. Instead of blowing the play dead, he let the player get up and eventually into the end zone.
Mission celebrates. Officials run off the field. Whalers stand on the sideline bewildered, their season over.
Officials make mistakes. They are human. They make fewer mistakes than the players. But where is the B.C. High School Football Association in all this, its president Bernie Crump and its past president Farhan Lalji (a TSN reporter who by all accounts has been a superb supporter and volunteer for B.C. high school football over the years)?
Even the NFL, where multi-million-dollar jobs are on the line every week, has apologized when its officials have blown a call. The B.C. High School Football Association needs to apologize to the Whalers for what has happened. For Ballenas players in Grade 12, this was the last chance they had to realize a dream that was years in the making.
Time to stand up, Bernie. Take the high road, Farhan. These things happen, but how an association deals with them says a lot about its credibility and its dedication to the young men playing this game.
— Editorial by John Harding