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School criticized for 91-0 game; Refugio has faced similar complaints

By BY BETSY BLANEY - ASSOCIATED PRESS
Oct. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.
Updated Oct. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.

Aledo High School player Ryan Newsom (17), runs between Western Hills players Shane Little, left, and Jacoby Powell during the first quarter of a football game in Aledo, Texas. Aledo defeated Western Hills 91-0. A parent at Western Hills high school has filed a bullying complaint against the winning coach.

Aledo High School coach Tim Buchanan benched his starters after only 21 plays, kept to a conservative ground game and even allowed the clock to run uninterrupted after halftime to hasten the final whistle. Still, his Bearcats won 91-0.

Now the coach is facing formal accusations of bullying.

Refugio coach Jason Herring said he understands Buchanan's dilemma.

Herring was often accused of running up the score during the 2011 season when Refugio won the Class 2A, Division II state championship.

"How people put a spin on it and how people take it is one thing, and I guess that's open to opinion," Herring said. "I have a hard time believing that any coach in the United States would try to score 100 points or score 50 points just to try to hurt the other kids."

The impressive victory for undefeated Aledo, a football powerhouse in suburban Fort Worth that has put up similar numbers against other schools, has forced an investigation after a parent from the opposing team filed a bullying complaint. The complaint, which must be investigated under state law, says Buchanan should have done more to prevent the lopsided score.

"It wasn't good for anybody," Buchanan said of the Friday win over Western Hills in a Class 4A matchup. "I've sat and gone over and over and over it on what we could have done differently. The score could have very easily been 150 to nothing."

Western Hills coach John Naylor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he disagreed with the bullying allegation, which Buchanan said suggested his coaches "should have made their players ease up and quit playing that hard."

Naylor did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday.

Under state law, Aledo's principal must investigate the complaint and prepare a report.

The complaint was filed with the school district, which the law requires to provide bullying complaint forms on its websites.

Herring said Tuesday that he hadn't heard of the complaint or didn't know about the game.

Herring said the clock ran continuously during the second half of Refugio's 51-0 win over Hebbronville last Friday night. The Bobcats kicked a field goal on first down during one of their possessions.

"We kick a field goal on first down, and I get ripped by the other coach," he said. "They say that's worse than trying to score. Then, if you offer to run the clock, they get upset with you because they feel like you're insinuating they're not good enough to play with you."

The University Interscholastic League, the governing body for high school sports in Texas, only has a mercy rule for six-man football that ends a game when one team gets ahead by 45 points by halftime or later. There is no mercy rule for 11-man football, though coaches can agree to end a game early, UIL spokeswoman Kate Hector said.

Buchanan said Tuesday he wasn't aware of that option.

Buchanan's team, which is averaging 69.3 points a game with a 7-0 record, ran just 32 plays but scored on about every third one during Friday's game. Aledo rushed for 391 yards. It scored eight touchdowns on the ground, two each on passes and punt returns, and one on a fumble recovery.

"It certainly didn't seem like they were trying to run up the score in this case," Hector said.

Herring drew criticism last season when quarterback Travis Quintanilla threw for a state-record 10 touchdowns in an 80-0 win over Taft.

Quintanilla threw 5 passes and completed 13, and the Bobcats ran a total of 28 plays.

"The people who are complaining are not in that situation and don't understand the dilemma," Herring said. "I don't know their situation. I know in our situation it's tough. There's a lot more to those games than just the score."

The UIL follows NCAA rules, but most other states follow guidelines of the National Federation of State High School Associations, said Bob Colgate, the federation's director of sports and sports medicine.

Colgate said many of the federation's 48 member states and the District of Columbia have adopted a mercy rule in 11-man football. He noted that a survey published in February found that 16 states reported using a mercy rule with point margins, which are set by individual states, ranging from 30 points to 50 points.

Aledo Principal Dan Peterson said his report on the bullying complaint should be completed this week. It will be given to the father who filed the complaint and the staff at Western Hills, which is in the Fort Worth school district. Aledo is in its own school district.

Hector said anyone can submit a proposal for a rule change which could then be considered by the UIL's legislative council.

Buchanan said his school, winner of four state titles since 1998, and district are very supportive of the football program. The same, he said, cannot be said of Western Hills.

"It's not so much money as it is lack of emphasis," he said. "If you're going to have a program, support it."

The Advocate's Mike Forman contributed to this story.

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