The rampant spread of televised high school football has had enormous consequences. For regional television networks, it's meant the generation of loads of content that never existed before. For prep sports fans, the trend has provided access to dozens of games each week that they never would have seen before, spreading interest in top level high school sports beyond traditional state boundaries.
Now, it's even leading to questions of whether the time has come for a more professional approach to the game, with columnists raising the possibility of instant replay in televised state playoff games.
As first mentioned by Dallas Morning News editor Greg Riddle, a pair of highly publicized questionable calls in the Texas Class 5A Div. I state semifinals and finals have led to a chorus of fans calling for instant replay.
First, in Southlake (Texas) Carroll's controversial 28-24 victory against Dallas (Texas) Skyline High, the Dragons' final, game-winning possession was made possible by a near spot perfect onside kick that may have been a little too perfect; multiple video angles showed that Carroll's kick may not have gone the required 10 yards to count as a legal kick off, as you can see in the video below.
Despite official formal complaints from the Dallas Independent School District, University Interscholastic League, the governing body for extracurricular activities in the state of Texas, refused to reconsider the call that ruled the kick legitimate.
If that wasn't enough to start serious discussions about instant replay, another play that gave Carroll a key lead in the state title game certainly stoked that debate. After Fort Bend (Texas) Hightower scored a first quarter touchdown to take its first lead of the title game, Carroll blocked the subsequent extra point attempt, then stormed its way into the Hightower end zone, scoring two points to cut the Hightower advantage to 6-5.
Yet replays of the surprising turn of score and momentum showed that the two-point Carroll conversion never should have counted. Instead, a lateral that sprang Carroll's Matt Swoyer en route to the end zone actually went forward, a technicality which should have ended the return far short of the scoring line.
In both of these cases, instant replay would have ended any speculation over whether the calls were correct. Multiple television angles were available, which would have provided ample resources to help referees make the right call.
For now, that option is off the table, though that's only because of the traditional base of prep football. It's likely that installing replay on a state-by-state level would be questioned by the national federation of high school associations, which in turn could dissuade them from beginning to use the practice that has become commonplace in college and NFL football.
Of course, until instant replay comes into play, incidents like the ones that helped pave Carroll's path to the 2011 title will continue to pop up. The question is how many incidents will come and go before state federations and fans decide together that enough is enough.