Steeber: Team did not run up the score
Two days after his team defeated an undermanned and overmatched Geibel squad, 81-0, in a game shortened by 22 minutes, Frazier football coach Mike Steeber didn't have much to say.
Steeber, however, let one statistic do the talking: “We ran 13 offensive plays the entire game, five were with varsity offense. … Three were taking a knee in the second half.”
Steeber said the Commodores did not run up the score following an 81-point outburst that included two safeties, two kickoff returns and two interception returns – the latter two in the final 1:20 of the first half. Frazier had 37 players dressed. All played – including junior varsity players. Geibel dressed 16, but two suffered head injuries.
With Frazier leading 81-0 at the half, officials and coaches mutually agreed to play one-minute quarters in the second half.
“Neither coach wants to be in that situation – ever,” Steeber said. “It's tough. We tried to play all our guys. … There were no varsity (players in) beyond the first quarter.”
Geibel forfeited its first two contests last season because of low numbers.
Gators first-year coach Pete Nace would not say he felt Frazier ran up the score, but alluded to three first-quarter touchdown passes by Commodores quarterback Charlie Manack.
“Everybody is aware of our situation in our conference, we have coaches meetings and everyone knows we're trying to keep our program alive,” Nace said. “If the roles were reversed, I would've liked to think things would have been a little different. There are certain things you can do to slow things down. ... The score speaks for itself.”
Nace said he hopes to ride out the rest of the season or fears the program would suffer a permanent fate.
“If we lose it this year, it will never come back. We've got to keep it going and kids have gone on from our program to play college,” noting current assistant coach Nico Martinelli, a Temple recruit that ended up playing at Bethany. “We've got to go week to week. We've got to tackle our obstacles as they come. We're going to pray, we're going to wait and see what God's answer is.”
Steeber said he respected the Gators for fighting on – and noted Frazier has been on the losing end of lopsided scores in the past.
“Their players played as hard as they could. I have ultimate respect for their kids and I really hope they can continue their season and keep their program going,” Steeber said. “We've been there where you can't stop somebody no matter how hard you play, and they played hard. Trust me, we've been there before.”
WPIAL Executive Director Tim O'Malley said, by league rules, the coaches were within their rights to shorten the final two quarters. O'Malley, though, said he could not think of any “recent instances” when teams agreed to play one-minute quarters.
“I'm out of town and cannot speak for the league, but I'm sure we'll take a look at the circumstances,” he said. “What happened (Friday) obviously is not good for anybody.”
While the one-minute quarters may have set a new precedent, the final score hardly rewrote any records.
On Sept. 30, 2011, Clairton defeated Avella, 84-0, and Gateway defeated Norwin, 85-0. Both lopsided scores garnered league-wide criticism. If halftime scores were any indication of whether teams are “running up” the score, the Bears led Avella, 76-0, and the Gators led Norwin, 62-0, at halftime.
In the Clairton game, both teams agreed to play eight-minute quarters instead of the regulation 12 minutes. Under the WPIAL mercy rule, the clock runs continuously in the second half when a team is ahead by 35 points.
Steeber stressed that on Friday – after his team received the second half kickoff – Commodores backup quarterback Chris Pierce took three snaps and kneeled each time to end the game.
“You do as best you can in a tough situation,” Steeber said. “They showed good sportsmanship. Everybody there, I thought, did. Both teams showed class.”
Steeber then stressed it was time to leave last Friday's tribulation behind. The Commodores host Carmichaels 7 p.m. Friday.
“We have to move on, the team, the coaches, we have a good football team coming in on Friday night,” Steeber said. “We prepared for Week 1 like anything else and we'll prepare for Week 2 like anything else.”
In the meantime, Nace vowed his young, inexperienced squad will play on. The Gators travel Friday to Beth-Center, the No. 8 team in The Tribune Review's Class A rankings.
“I hate to lose, I hate it more than anything and I hate being in a situation where we have to develop everything,” Nace said.
“These kids didn't quit and I'm not going to quit on them.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.