Breaking ties: Veteran coaches remember a time when games could end without a winner | News, Sports, Jobs

File photo mirror John Franco has been a head high school football coach since the 1980s, when ties were possible in PIAA competition.

Until the conclusion of the 1994 season, there was still the option of ending a college football game in a tie.

Prior to the 1995 season, the PIAA implemented the NFHS’s use of overtime in which each team receives the ball from their opponents’ 10-yard line. That overtime system, similar to NCAA rules, is still in use today.

Since 28 years have passed since college football games in Pennsylvania ended in a tie, the number of coaches with ties in their career records is dwindling. There are only five in the Mirror area: Dave Baker from Central, Tim Janocko from Clearfield, John Franco from Tyrone, Max Shoemaker from Chestnut Ridge, and Brian Koontz from Everett. Baker was the head coach at Williamsburg for his ties, while Franco was at Altoona and Shoemaker was at Bedford.

the time factor

Given that 28 years have passed since there were games that ended in draws, the memories of those games that ended in draws are somewhat blurred for the five coaches. In fact, Koontz couldn’t remember which school the Warriors were playing at because of his one tie. Koontz and Shoemaker have just one tie in their history. Franco has two, Janocko has three and Baker has more than the other four combined with 11 draws on his record.

Baker had some recollection of their ties, including a pair against the Bellwood-Antis in the early 1970s.

“They were very competitive matches”, Baker said. “One was 0-0 and one was 16-16. It was a strong Bellwood team and a good rivalry. It was one of those where you felt good escaping with a tie. You say you shouldn’t like a draw, but it’s better than losing. We were up against a tough team.”

Shoemaker’s only draw came against the school he now coaches for at Chestnut Ridge in 1990.

“I remember we didn’t win a game that year,” Shoemaker said. “We went 0-9-1 and tied with Chestnut Ridge, which is kind of ironic. I think the score was 6-6. Our defense played relatively solid that night. That was my first year as head coach. Ridge had a good team that year and our kids played well. We also lost two other games that year in the last few seconds.

“One went to Everett and the other went to Central Cambria. I remember more the games where you could have won and didn’t than the others.”

Janocko’s three ties came in 1987 against Warren (20-20), 1988 against Punxsutawney (21-21) and 1991 against Huntingdon (7-7).

“I remember in 1987 we were not a good football team at the time,” Janocko said. “We had a chance to tie or go for the win (against Warren), and we went for the win and still ended up tied. The others I don’t remember much honestly because it’s been a long time.”

One of Franco’s two ties with the Mountain Lions was in 1987 against Johnstown, but he didn’t remember the other one. But he remembered that he wasn’t happy about ending the game in a deadlock.

“I remember that I did not like (ties)”, Frank said. “There wasn’t much to remember. I really liked it when they introduced the overtime rule. I thought that was a great advantage for high school.”

Were ties avoided?

No one ever plays a game hoping to end up tied, and in return, many coaches tried to avoid a tie if possible. So if a scenario arose where one of the five coaches was down seven and scored a touchdown late in a game, would that have forced them to attempt a 2-point conversion?

It would depend on the season and the team. Janocko said. “You never wanted to play for a draw, but if you have a young team and you thought that an opponent was better than you. You could tie it down and give your team some boost. I think there is no shame in doing that.”

“I think we would have (avoided the tie), but that never came up,” Baker said. “Our draws were maybe 0-0 or we had to convert 2 points to get a draw, so there weren’t many options. I think that’s what I would have tried to do.

“The other thing is you can kick it and tie it, but you’re likely to miss it in high school.”

Franco said it would have depended on whether his teams were in a position to play for a championship.

“If the tie benefited you, I would be more apt to do it”, he said. “I’m pretty sure there were a few times when we went for the win, and sometimes we got it and sometimes we didn’t. I also remember a couple of times teams came at us and we held them.”

Another situation arose for Shoemaker while at Bedford, where he thought a draw might have been possible, but late in the game things took a turn for the worse.

“We were playing at Central Cambria. We were up 6-3 at the end of the game and were forced to punt and took a safety to make it 6-5. We kicked him and hit him, and they ran in reverse and got him back for a touchdown, all in the last minute.” Shoemaker said.

Introducing overtime

Franco’s approval of introducing overtime in 1995 was generally shared by all other coaches. The rules then approved with the ball at the opponents’ 10-yard line to start an extra period are still used today. To keep things simple, a team gets four attempts to score a touchdown or kick a field goal, unless the penalty is an automatic first down.

“You have to have an ending to the game. A draw is not an end.” Frank said. “You are in the same place that you were at the beginning of the game and even the day before the game. You’re going to put all that work and effort into playing the game, you have to have a result. It just doesn’t make sense to have a tie.”

“I thought you played all that time and you should declare a winner,” Janocko said. “I didn’t like ties. You put in all that work, and we should decide who’s going to win this. I thought it was a good move.”

Although overtime is generally approved, Koontz was not 100 percent on board with ending ties in 1995.

“I’ve had mixed emotions with overtime,” Koontz said. “We have won some games in extra time. We have lost some. Sometimes you almost feel like it would be better to draw.”

the lower levels

Although a game can no longer end in a tie in college football, that possibility still remains today at the junior varsity and junior high levels. What do coaches think about the introduction of overtime at lower levels?

That’s the one issue that everyone universally agreed on should stay the same.

“There’s not as much focus at those levels,” Shoemaker said. “I think the current system works well. With younger kids, you definitely don’t want to extend their time (in the field) too much.”

“At that level, they just need to play,” Janocko said. “It’s about experience and getting them to play.”

One of the problems junior college football has today is the number of players involved in a given game. Some smaller programs have canceled an entire JV schedule and many more games are canceled mid-season due to injuries.

“(JV games) are more of an extended practice,” Frank said. “We don’t need to drag out a JV game. A lot of our games are in a scrimmage format where we go down and distance ourselves, and sometimes even 10 (offensive games) and 10 (defensive games) just to work. It just doesn’t make sense in a JV because they’re there to get kids to work and they don’t have a chance in practice to get enough work.”

Most JV and high school football games are played on school nights, but there are a few exceptions where they are played on Saturdays. That’s a factor in Baker’s opinion.

“Those games are weeknights and you might be away from home and it’s a school night,” Baker said. “I think you let those kids play, and whatever happens, happens.”

Is the format correct?

Koontz’s main complaint with the overtime rule at the time was starting overtime periods at the 10-yard line.

“I just didn’t like the format. I don’t like to play from 10”, Koontz said. “I prefer to play from 25.

“I don’t think it will ever change. The 10-yard line is what it is and I think it’s pretty well established, but I’d like to see you make a first down or have to kick a field goal.”

There has been much talk over the years about whether the PIAA should adopt the NCAA’s overtime rules, which have the ball starting at the opponents’ 25-yard line. Some have also called for NFL-style overtime, in which one team starts as the start of the game.

Like Koontz, Franco also doesn’t approve of starting at the 10-yard line.

“I think extra time from college is better at 25,” Frank said. “The NFL rule is a better rule of thumb, but in high school with the age of kids, it’s not as easy to score as it is in the NFL and college. It’s also giving kids a better chance of getting injured (per NFL rules). I just wish you needed a little more time to score on the 25th or 30th, somewhere out there. I like the NFL rule, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for high school.”

The time factor is a big reason for the approval of Janocko, Shoemaker and Baker’s current format.

“I think what we currently have is fine,” Shoemaker said. “For me it works fine and saves time, unless you go through a lot of overtime, which is very unusual. I think the process works well.”

“I think the way we do it now is what’s best for the high school,” Janocko said. “With the way the NFL does it, that’s good, but I think you don’t want kids to play too long. The way we do it now, it usually ends a little bit quicker.”

Another point Baker brought up was an argument that is sometimes viewed negatively in high school football.

“People say, ‘It all comes down to one play.'” said baker. “Well, a lot of games come down to one play anyway, so why not (overtime)?”

Today’s latest news and more in your inbox

Leave a Comment