WTF Driscoll Middle School? W-T-F?

You know what’s f****d up? Little kids using trick plays to beat other little kids. I’m not talking about reverses and misdirections and flea-flickers; I mean actual deception.* I mean actual, “Let’s take advantage of those other little kids not being sure of the rules of football” deception. Way to exploit their naivete and compassion, Driscoll Middle School. Way to teach your opponent to never take anything anyone does at face value. I guess they should have popped your confusion-feigning quarterback while he stood upright and more or less defenseless in the middle of their front seven, right? That would have been the “sporting” thing of them to do? Clearly, some good life lessons are being taught by a team that apparently can’t score in an honest way, which is hard to believe since it’s little-kid football, and everybody scores all the time in little-kid football.

*”You tricked me.”

“I deceived you, Mother. ‘Trick’ implies that we have a playful relationship.”

What fans are cheering this behavior? Who’s yelling “GO! GO!” excitedly? Why do news organizations want to talk to these a******s? WHO IS SANCTIONING THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR???

That s*** is f****d up, man.

25 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by John S on November 9, 2010 at 5:15 PM

    Yeah, can you believe we live in a world where this gets cheered (and featured on Around the Horn) but a coach gets fired for winning 100-0? What are we promoting as a society?


  2. Posted by Douglas on November 9, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    Okay, I agree, but who really posted this? Asterisks notwithstanding, this profane objector is a far cry from the silversmith’s apprentice we all know and “love”.


  3. Posted by Josh on November 9, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    I don’t know: I take a different view than you guys. I just view it as amusing and clever trickery. Ideally, a great catch gets more YouTube play than this, but this makes people laugh, so it goes viral.

    And, out of curiosity, where do you draw the line? Obviously a play action pass is deceptive, but that’s fine. Likewise with fake punts and field goals.


    • Posted by Tim on November 9, 2010 at 8:01 PM

      Here’s the line: Anything that occurs while the ball is clearly in play is fair game. The deception here isn’t about who has the ball or anything like that; Driscoll Middle School is pretending as if the ball is not in play, and so their opposition politely declines not to tackle their quarterback. They’re exploiting an obscure rule that they know the other kids don’t know about (the side hike). They’re not taking advantage of an undisciplined or unprepared defense; they’re taking advantage of kids being nice.


      • Posted by Josh on November 9, 2010 at 8:07 PM

        “Here’s the line: Anything that occurs while the ball is clearly in play is fair game.”

        That rules out the fake spike, right? Everyone thinks the ball is dead, play is over, but it’s not.


        • Posted by Tim on November 9, 2010 at 8:12 PM

          The ball is in play during a fake spike. It is no different than a pump fake.


          • Posted by Josh on November 9, 2010 at 8:27 PM

            If that’s true, than your standard is meaningless and you’re contradicting yourself.

            Your supposed standard is “clearly in play.” The whole purpose of the fake spike is to deceive the defense into thinking the ball is out of play and the play is over. A pump fake just makes the defense think that the ball is in (or going to) a different place, not that it’s out of play.

            If I take you at your word based on what you just said, then the standard is just if “the ball is in play.” And, the ball was in play when the center gave it to the QB in the trick play–there was an asymmetry with regard to knowledge of the rules: apparently the other team didn’t realize it could be hiked this way or if they did, just were deceived by the casual nature of the QB walking through the D.
            And, the play could have been executed with a traditional hike, but that really doesn’t seem like that should change your evaluation. Here’s an example of the same play where the ball is hiked the traditional way, through the legs (

          • Posted by Tim on November 9, 2010 at 8:35 PM

            Yes, but it’s very easy to tell on a fake spike whether the ball is in play or not. If it isn’t rolling on the ground, it’s in play. And contrary to what most Jets fans think, the fake spike is rarely successful (

            And you’re right: The fact that the ball is traditionally hiked in the play you link to does not make me accept it any more. It’s little kids deceiving other little kids.

  4. Posted by Josh on November 9, 2010 at 8:39 PM

    So, the relevant factor is how quickly it could be verified that a ball is in or out of play? Deception is okay so long as it is discovered within the arbitrary period of time that you deem acceptable?

    And, I don’t understand why these being “little kids” (although, I don’t consider 12 or 13 years old, the average age of Middle School football players, to be little kids) should have any effect on your analysis. Is this okay in the NFL because adults feelings won’t be hurt as much?


    • Posted by Tim on November 9, 2010 at 8:43 PM

      The relevant factor is the possibility of verifying whether a ball is in play. The defense here had two options: 1. Ask the referee; 2. Maul the quarterback in what would be viewed as an unsportsmanlike move. (At which point there could be 15-yard penalties and the QB could say he was legitimately confused. It’s plausible deniability.)

      And youth sports and professional sports have wildly different goals. I thought you were smart enough to understand that.


      • Posted by Josh on November 9, 2010 at 8:48 PM

        I don’t see why a normal tackle becomes a “maul” just because of the context. The defense could just normally tackle the QB to the ground. He takes the risk of being tackled in open field by going forward with the trick play. Football, even at the youth level, is a dangerous sport and perhaps a coach may make a decision that he doesn’t want to expose his QB to open field tackles and if he does make that decision, perhaps he doesn’t run QB draws or do other trick plays, but I think you’re overestimating the exceptionality of the QB’s exposure here.

        And, I think it’s patronizing to say that 12 or 13 year old boys are “little kids” who can’t handle deception. I know that would have annoyed the hell out of me when I was 13.


        • Posted by Tim on November 9, 2010 at 8:55 PM

          I’m sorry; I’ll be more responsible with my future uses of “maul.” I won’t use it to describe seven defenders tackling a quarterback who is completely upright with his head down. Further, any tackling of the QB here would “look” bad; it’s one of the things that prevented the defense from doing it.

          And please be specific and point out where I said little kids can’t handle deception. When I say that there’s a difference between the goals of professional sports and youth sports, I mean you play one to win and you play the other to learn the game. This does not teach anyone about how to play the game of football.


  5. Posted by John S on November 9, 2010 at 8:57 PM

    Wow, I turn away for a few minutes and the debate spirals out of control….

    Josh, I think there are a couple of standards at play here, and Tim has kind of articulated both of them. First, there is the difference between deception about the play or the ball, and then there is deception about the rules. Deceiving the opposition about what play you are running or where the ball is is fine, but deception that relies purely on a misunderstanding of the rules is not, particularly at this level. After all, it might be reasonable to assume a professional knows this rule (although some professionals don’t even know games can end in a tie), but middle schoolers are obviously less informed and more likely to defer to the coaches, who were clearly playing along in this case.

    Also, there is the standard of reasonableness. That is, what would it be reasonable for the defenders to do? In the case of a fake spike, or a counter, there are plenty of reasonable ways for the defense to respond (i.e. precisely locate the ball, don’t bite on first movement, etc.). As Tim pointed out about this case, though, it’s not really reasonable to expect the defenders to level a player who is casually walking by them with the ball. The video clearly shows that several defenders stood and up and were ready to tackle the QB, and presumably only didn’t because tackling the ball-carrier on a dead play often results in suspensions and penalties. Once again the fact that these are “little kids” (I too have qualms about the term, but so be it) is relevant. We are used to hard and possibly cheap hits in the NFL and college, and maybe even high school, but once you reach the level of middle school that kind of thing is really intolerable, and could even result in getting kicked off the team.

    Can we all agree, though, that the most shocking thing about this play is volume of profanity (censored though it may be) it unleashed from master of etiquette Tim?


    • Posted by Tim on November 9, 2010 at 9:00 PM

      I’d like to apologize for the profanity. Some things just really rustle my britches.


    • Posted by Josh on November 9, 2010 at 9:09 PM

      This is my last response just for time reasons:

      1. I accept your deception dichotomy, but just don’t think it’s meaningful. An admirable trait in sports (certainly not the most admirable, but admirable nonetheless) IS knowing all of the rules well, perhaps knowing some of the rules better than the other team. Having referees not enforce the rules strictly (in this instance) gives players incentives to complain in other slightly less deceptive situations that the rules shouldn’t apply. What if the QB bounces the ball back to a WR, tricking the D into thinking it’s an incompletion when in fact it’s a lateral? There’s a real slippery slope issue here and, even without the slippery slope issue, encouraging knowledge of the rules is a good thing.

      2. The play leads to a collective action problem. Because of the lack of clarity of the D about the rules, each defensive player looks to the other defensive players; no one defensive player wants to bear the burden of tackling in case they are wrong about the rules, but this problem is arising because of uncertainly. And, I don’t think the option is either “don’t tackle” or have 7 guys maul the QB. As I implied above, one or two guys could normally tackle him. And, that’s that.

      And, yeah, the profanity is indeed shocking.


      • Posted by Tim on November 9, 2010 at 9:16 PM

        My issue, Josh, is that none of those kids know that rule. The only reason the Driscoll kids know it is because some smart-alecky coach incorporated it into the playbook. It’s the equivalent of telling six-year-olds to drop pop flies because the other team doesn’t understand the Infield Fly rule.

        As for your suggested trick play, I’m fine with Presbyterian doing it to Wake Forest ( but wouldn’t like it if middle-school kids pulled it (as impressed as I would be if they were able to properly execute that bounce).

        And yes, the defense totally should have caucused to decide who should take part in the tackling and who shouldn’t.


        • Posted by John S on November 9, 2010 at 9:40 PM

          I’m like 99% certain Tim only included that las sentence so he could use the word “caucus.” And, yeah, I’m having a hard time envisioning how any player could “normally tackle” a player who, as Tim pointed out, is standing upright with his head down. “Normal” tackles involve one player running away from another, who is trying to complete the tackle. Instances in which this doesn’t happen are either illegal (tackling a player once a play is blown dead, a horsecollar tackle which involves pulling another player’s weight TOWARDS you, etc.) or when they are legal (a receiver goes up the middle and gets hit at full speed by a DB, a QB is blindsided by a LB, etc.) are almost always the kind of “big hits” that get shown on NFL Films or, when they occur in middle school games, result in someone’s mom calling.


  6. This is totally something that I would do, but by accident. As Tim can attest, I once (okay, a few times) blocked when I was supposed to be rushing, or whatever the right verbs are. In terms of “not letting the other guy get past me,” that was definitely my best attempt at blocking. He never got past.


  7. Posted by doc on November 9, 2010 at 10:26 PM

    I looked at this play several times and clearly it’s a legitimate deception play (and I am not saying this as I kinda know Josh). First you see the QB look quizzically at the sidelines as if he is confused. How many times have you seen Peyton Manning pointing all over the place, including to the sidelines, and then just do a simple handoff? It’s all deception, BEFORE the ball is in play. Next you have the side snap. The kids may have been fooled by this, but no whistle was blown for illegal procedure which any middle school age kid should understand. When I coached NFL Flag football with a former pro NFL player, we always taught that the players that they should assume a play is on, unless they hear a whistle. Now about the side snap – think about all the trick plays recently where the ball is snapped, not to the QB, but rather to a running back or someone who rushes to get under center. Next, is there deception when the kid walks past the defense? Yes, but the same kind of deception occurs when a college or pro QB does a great fake handoff and hides the ball well behind his hip. Think of the naked bootleg and a QB trotting away from the action with the ball hidden from plain view. The bottom line is that the kids on the defense were not well-coached, while the kids on the offense have a slick coach. This is a play that will only work once, but all is fair in love and war and football. And I am disgusted with Tim’s vile language.


    • Posted by John S on November 9, 2010 at 11:24 PM

      Once again, I’m going to have to disagree. The comparisons you make – to Peyton Manning’s pointing, the naked bootleg, fake handoffs, etc. – are all deceptions that make you think something is happening (or about to happen) when it is not. You try and make the defense think one person has the ball, when it’s really in the hands of someone else. You make the defense think you’re going to throw left, and you’re really going to throw right. Etc. The difference is that, in this play, there is no confusion at all about what is happening, only confusion about the meaning or legitimacy of what is happening. The players knew who had the ball and where he was going, they just assumed the ball was still dead. Even the point that “they should assume a play is on until they hear a whistle” doesn’t really hold: The players weren’t assuming the play was over because they didn’t realize a play had BEGUN. And tackling a player before a play starts is just as illegal as tackling someone after the whistle. The closest equivalent I can think of is when little kids occasionally pick up the ball and start running with it after a play has been blown dead. In such a case, tackling the player is likely to result in ejection, and is certainly unsportsmanlike.


  8. Posted by doc on November 10, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    I better not hear, John, that you ran this play while coaching some youngsters. I will find Tim and he will curse you out like there is no tomorrow.


  9. By the way, there is justice in the world. The playoff game ended up tied 6-6 and the team that pulled the trick play did not move on with some obscure tie-breaking rules!


  10. Posted by Douglas on November 10, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    I’ll just point out that even a standard tackle would not have been necessary to stop this play from becoming a touchdown. Granted, in a fourth and inches situation, this play would have still resulted in a huge advantage, but the players simply could have wrapped up the QB without tackling him. This type of thing is pretty common in sports. Say you’re playing basketball and a guy is driving to the basket. On his way to the basket, the ref blows the whistle. The cautious defender will assertively grab the ball handler’s arm to make sure that a shot can’t go off and lead to a three point play. This isn’t a forceful procedure, but rather a measured amount of interference as a safeguard. I’m not saying it’s always appropriate to do this, but in some cases it is. In the same way that you can touch a player when he’s down instead of tackling him, they could have just blocked his path.

    Of course, this is arguably tangential to the argument, but it does speak to the idea of safeguarding when something is confusing or suspicious. That’s a defensive instinct and also a practiced skill, and to pretend that the only way to act on that instinct would constitute unsportsmanlike conduct in this particular case isn’t fair. Again though, even if Driscoll hadn’t scored it would have constituted a seemingly unfair advantage, regardless of yardage.


    • Posted by Tim on November 11, 2010 at 8:01 PM

      Your basketball example is an apt one, since otherwise innocuous attempts to stop a potential three-point play by “assertively grab[bing] the ball handler’s arm” often leads to flagrant fouls being called. Again, the intention is good and innocent, but the opponent (in your case the ball handler, in mine the quarterback) isn’t in a position to adequately respond to even a “normal” amount of contact.


  11. Football Is 100% Good


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