Team's illegal trick play lands state semifinal berth

Jesuit (Ore.) High will be playing in the Oregon School Activities Association Class 6A semifinals on this weekend. A single trick play in the fourth quarter of the Crusaders' 28-25 quarterfinal victory over Hillsboro (Ore.) High played a big part in that, yet that play may also be the main reason why the Crusaders should probably be sitting at home already.

In the play you can see below, with 3:47 left in the game, Jesuit quarterback Eric Williams sent a lateral pass to wide receiver Nicholas Rothstein, who caught the pass behind the original line of scrimmage on the right side of the field. Rothstein then passed the ball back to Williams, who was still behind the line of scrimmage, who in turn sent the ball deep down the field for a 45-yard completion that moved the ball to the Hillsboro 3-yard-line.

The only problem with the trick play was that it isn't technically legal; as set out in the Portland Oregonian, the second pass from behind the line of scrimmage qualified the play as a violation of the National Federation of State High School Assocation's rulebook.

"Our kids battled so hard," Hillsboro coach Ken Ingram told the Oregonian. "And they're not advancing because of calls that the officials didn't get."

Making matters more frustrating for Ingram was the lack of cooperation from officials at the game, who refused to listen to his protestations of the call immediately after it occurred.

"The only thing the line judge said was, 'You want a timeout, Coach?'" Ingram told the Oregonian. "I'm thinking, 'No, I need my timeouts.' In retrospect, I probably should have used one, because it probably would have been worth it if they had changed the call."

For his part, Jesuit coach Ken Potter refuses to admit that the play was an illegal second forward pass behind the line of scrimmage. Yet, Potter issued a misstatement of high school rules as his original justification, claiming, "If you look in the rulebook, if it's behind the line of scrimmage, it can be slightly forward. ... So, that's just the way the rules are."

In fact, the rules haven't been that way since 2005, which may have inspired Potter to revise his original statement after watching a replay of Jesuit's game-winning drive.

"The thing I'm watching on film is about as straight sideways as you can get," Potter told the Oregonian. "I'm guessing that's what the officials saw."

While the double-pass may not have been a legal play, it won't be enough to keep Jesuit from playing in another state semifinal on Friday. OSAA officials have requested a copy of the game's tape to determine if any mistakes were made, but they said such discoveries will only be used as instructional measures for future referees.

That does little to console Ingram and his players, though Potter and Jesuit continue to justify their victory based on the typical claim that calls tend to even out for both teams across the course of a game.

"It all balances out in the end," Potter said. "It does in a way. Honestly, if we had lost the game, you wouldn't have heard a thing from me other than, 'Well, those kinds of things happen and we lost.' That's just the way it is."

Maybe that is the way it is now, but Hillsboro, for one, probably wonders if it should remain that way in the future.

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