The only statistic that matters

Patrick Newell

Maybe the best learning tool a coach can impart on his players is to finish the game and play to the final whistle. Yogi Berra coined the malaprop phrase, “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over” a long time ago, and that statement was never more true for Sherburne-Earlville, Unadilla Valley-Edmeston, and Greene last Friday and Saturday. I had the fortune of watching two of those three teams play last weekend. The Marauders, amid the festive fervor of homecoming, edged A-P-W by a point. UV-Edmeston, also came away with a one-point win, and lastly, the Trojans spoiled the re-opening of Norwich’s revamped and state-of-the-art field. Again, that was a one-point victory. In each case, the victor was not the dominant team. In fact, if you weren’t looking at the scoreboard, you would surely assume the opposing team was winning the game. And not just winning, but handily controlling play. The aforementioned contests proved to me that total yardage is one of the most deceiving statistics. So is time of possession, rushing yards, passing yards, and almost every statistic except the one that matters most: The actual score. For four quarters, I watched Sherburne-Earlville do virtually nothing on offense – except when opportunity knocked. The Marauders seemed in position to scoop up every loose ball or grap an errant pass. They were pushed around all over the field, but made just enough key plays to keep themselves in the ball game. This was the type of game S-E has lost year in and year out. The breaks in close games rarely went its way, but on that day – perhaps the start of a new trend – the chips finally landed on the Marauders’ side. I didn’t see the Storm’s win over Spencer-Van Etten, and their second-year coach, Jack Loeffler, said his team is not looking at the statistics. Frankly, there wasn’t much to look at with just 90 total yards. But within those 90 yards was one opportune moment where the Storm’s defense recovered a fumble deep in Panthers’ territory, and then strung together three quality plays to score their only points. UV-E’s defense has spent a lot of time on the field this season, and considering the number of yards given up to the number of plays run by the opponent’s offense, it’s pretty darn good. The Storm allowed one fourth-quarter touchdown, but quelled and quieted just about every other S-VE advance to win its first game of the season. And then there was Norwich versus Greene. it was the type of game you enjoy watching, regardless of your allegiances. For one half, neither team assumed control, but from the third quarter to the exciting finish, it was all Norwich. The Tornado drove the ball up and down the field, but had just one touchdown to show for all that effort. Greene, meanwhile, didn’t drive the ball at all. One big kickoff return by Jake Wentlent and one TD pass from Nate Whittaker to Justin Van Wert – on the next play after the return – was about all the Greene offense mustered through 24 minutes of play. But that touchdown was just enough, thanks to a successful two-point try. The momentum, the electric home crowd, and a long winning tradition backed the Tornado on their late march toward a winning score. But the Trojans, an undersized Class C school just starting to make a name for itself, made the ultimate stop of the game halting a winning score one-yard short. It was the first contest between the two schools, and hopefully the first of many more. It’s games like these that further my love of high school football, and for all of the statistics-loving people out there (myself included), the only one that really matters is the final score.