High school blowouts can be awkward both ways
BELLWOOD — Friday night was a special one for Bellwood-Antis coach Jim Swaney, who won his 500th game as a head coach.
But as happy and emotional as he was after the game, he likely felt somewhat awkward during it.
His Lady Blue Devils overwhelmed a rebuilding Moshannon Valley team that was devastated by graduation after earning home games in the District 6 Class 2A playoffs the past two seasons by 89 points.
The Damsels are learning on the fly at the varsity level due to a lack of numbers, and they aren’t alone.
“We don’t have a JV team, because we only have nine girls,” Moshannon Valley coach Jillian Kane said. “My girls would be exhausted from playing JV coming back for varsity. A lot of the surrounding teams have also made that decision, so we went with it too. Not many of them have varsity experience from last year, so we’re teaching them skills they should have learned a long time ago.”
Bellwood’s lopsided victory wasn’t the only one in the area Friday night as Juniata Valley’s girls team routed West Branch, 73-7. The Lady Warriors are another team that is struggling with numbers and can’t learn at the junior varsity level.
That means when teams like Bellwood-Antis and Juniata Valley put their backups and junior varsity players in, sometimes the score continues to get more lopsided.
While it’s tough to see, it’s also hard to tell a kid that doesn’t get a chance to play much to hold the ball, and those players’ parents don’t want to see that either. Holding the ball isn’t going to make the opposition any better, either, and going against those backups might be their only chance to improve in games against top competition.
“It’s tough, you can’t change bad habits overnight,” Kane said. “We need to be better at mentally preparing for games. We get frustrated and take ourselves out of the game. That’s part of teaching the game, too.”
Even though it’s easy to blame the coaches and players of the team on the positive side of the rout, it’s a situation they don’t want to be in either.
“It’s probably harder than playing a close game,” Bellwood-Antis senior Alli Campbell said. “You’re trying not to do too much. There’s a running clock, and it doesn’t feel like a natural game. It’s tough. It’s way tougher than a close game.”
Playing just a junior varsity game for teams that don’t feel prepared to compete against top-tier varsity squads seems on the surface like it could be a solution, but that would hurt teams like B-A and the Lady Hornets when it came to playoff points and filling out a schedule.
When Moshannon Valley scored its first point just before halftime Friday, the loudest cheer of the night filled the gymnasium. It broke an awkward silence that preceded the moment and hopefully was a reminder that the true reason for any of these games is making good memories and teaching team building. Blowouts sometimes can’t be avoided, but as long as the concentration is on what helped either team move toward those true goals, the score doesn’t matter.
Michael Boytim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 946-7521