By Bobby Mathews, sports editor
Editor’s note: This is an opinion column.
Almost every time someone complains about the referees in any kind of sporting contest, they’re wrong.
It’s easy to blame the refs for a loss, but that’s often just sour grapes from fans. It can keep a team from addressing the issues it needs to fix; and besides, it would be unfair to blame the refs for Hewitt-Trussville’s loss to Thompson on September 17, 2021, because the Warriors were the better team on that night.
However: In this case, the referees for this game were atrocious, and it’s impossible to believe that their calls didn’t affect the the final score of the game. Specifically during the first half, every big play by the Huskies was negated, either by a penalty call during the play or a flag thrown on the play directly following positive yardage. I’m not saying the game was in the bag from the outset, but a subtle pattern began to emerge.
Cade Carruth to Omari Kelly for 32 yards? That came back due to a holding call, with the flag thrown late once the play had moved well downfield. James Hammonds for 14 yards? Back it up due to a nonexistent blindside blocking call against (apparently) Carruth.
Was it intentional malfeasance or just run-of-the-mill incompetence? We’ll likely never know for sure.
These two calls both came in the first half, when the game was in doubt, and they led directly to a 14-point swing in Thompson’s favor. Without those points, Thompson may have gone into the half up only 7-3, because the Husky defense was playing lights out. Is it a different game then? We’ll never know, because the referees helped ensure that wouldn’t happen.
Understand: The outcome likely would not have changed. Thompson was able to put drives together and keep the Hewitt-Trussville defense on the field for long stretches. And no matter how good a defense is, if they stay on the field too long, they get tired. Once a defense is tired, it’s easy for an offense — especially one like Thompson’s — to take advantage.
Here’s the other thing: The officiating was so biased that no one is talking about the fact that Hewitt scored twice on Thompson and held the Warrior offense to its lowest point total of the season. Despite both of those things, Thompson still didn’t need the help from the zebras, but they dang sure got it.
Hewitt-Trussville has some serious concerns going forward if they want to contend for a 7A state title. Turnovers were an issue, as was an inability to get significant separation by the offensive skill players. They’ve had return issues several times throughout the first four games of the season, but against Thompson it really came back to bite them. A misplayed kickoff return ended up as a touchdown for the Warriors one play following a 55-yard touchdown strike from Thompson early in the third quarter. That made it 35-0, and the game was effectively out of reach at that point.
By the time Carruth found Omari Kelly on a crossing route at midfield for a big touchdown catch-and-run, the ending was academic. The referees had already made sure that Hewitt-Trussville wouldn’t have a fair shot at unseating the No. 1 team in 7A.
I would’ve liked to have seen Thompson earn those 14 gift points in the first half. Without those points, it’s probably a 28-9 final in favor of the Warriors. The referees helped Thompson out to that 21-3 lead at the half, though, which was a disservice not only to Hewitt-Trussville but also to Thompson and the success they’re having down in Alabaster.
Bobby Mathews is sports editor at The Trussville Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com or @bobbymathews on Twitter.