GARY | Ten minutes before the biggest game on West Side's schedule, Cougars coach Jason Johnson wasn't preparing for Morton's offense. Or defense. Or special teams.
He was in the press box, teaching a young man how to work the clock. It was the young man's first night in the chair. There were several clock mishaps in the game.
Right before kickoff, a bank of lights went out in the center of the field. At the start of the second quarter, a bank of lights in the north end zone went out.
A very entertaining game with more individual talent than at any other field in Indiana became a typical joke, administratively.
Five minutes before kickoff, an announcement was made that three people were needed for the chain gang. No announcement was made about anyone lining the field.
West Side already forfeited a game this season because officials were used who were not licensed. Friday night's crew gave Morton coach Roy Richards some pain.
In the second quarter, Morton was stopped on a fourth-and-goal. A late flag, however, was thrown for pass interference. One official said first down. Richards called a play. His team went to the line and an official yelled, “Fourth down.”
The run play was stopped, and the Cougars took over on downs. Richards almost lost his mind.
“Where are we?” he screamed. “We are in America. You told me it was a first down. I would've called a different play.”
At the end of the game, which Morton won 63-56 in a breathtaking display of top-shelf athleticicsm, it was another controversial call that actually gave Morton the victory.
The Govs ran a play and got to West Side's 3 with the clock at :09 left in the game. Morton was out of timeouts. It was not a first down, but an official blew his whistle and stopped the clock. What seemed like 20 seconds later, he started the clock -- after Morton was lined up. The Govs scored and got the two-point conversion for the final score.
West Side has never beaten Morton. Poor administration and hiring of officials cost the Cougars this game. That and having little ability to tackle anyone.
Someone in downtown Gary needs to step up and stop this nonsense. Jason Johnson is doing a great job in building a program. But he can't get a clock guy, hire the refs, line the field, put bulbs in the lights and sell popcorn, too.
“I love it here, I knew what I was getting when I came back,” Johnson said. “The clock never should've stopped. They never would've got a snap if the clock would've kept running.
“We should've won this game.”
Richards didn't go that far, but close.
“People might say, 'You guys let them score that much?” Richards said. “Well, good luck. That's a great football team over there. No, the clock shouldn't have stopped on that last play. But that was the only break we got in four quarters of football.
“I've never felt we were up against it like this in my life.”
Ramone Atkins, Lonnie Johnson and JonVea' Johnson are unbelievable football players. More than 1,000 yards of offense was created in this once-in-a-lifetime kind of game.
But people won't be talking about that this morning. They'll be talking about how it should've been run better.
Gary, please give Johnson some help. Upstairs. These kids deserve it.
Or give him a broom to sweep up after the game is over, too. He'll surely sweep his way out of town if something isn't changed.