By David Purdum \ For the AJC
In the final week of the 2010 regular season, South Atlanta defeated Cross Keys 95-13.
It’s the largest margin of victory in Georgia high school football since at least 1980, and two years later, both sides still have regrets.
Cross Keys coach David Radford believes questionable sportsmanship was on display. South Atlanta coach Julius Moses doesn’t understand why Radford refused to implement the running clock in the third quarter with his team down 60 at half.
The Georgia High School Association mercy rule states if a team is trailing by 30 points or more at halftime, the coach of the trailing team may choose to play the entire second half with a running clock. Radford declined the option, according to officials from DeKalb County Schools and Atlanta Public Schools. A running clock is implemented automatically if the margin remains over 30 points heading into the fourth quarter.
According to Radford, South Atlanta kept its starters in too long and continued to blitz. According to Moses, South Atlanta had approximately 20 players suited up.
“Putting in backups wasn’t an option,” Moses said. “There wasn’t a second or third string. We ran the ball every play in the second half, using only two plays.”
This wasn’t the first time Cross Keys had been on the wrong end of a lopsided score. The Indians lost 77-7, 75-7 and 65-0 the previous season.
This year there are 26 players on the Cross Keys varsity team, which lost 64-0 to B.E.S.T Academy in the opener. Some of the play calls and audibles are made in Spanish. The coaching staff had to hold a practice to teach players how to properly put on their pads.
“Some guys were using their butt pad as a cup,” Radford said this week. “Others had their thigh pads where their knee pads should go. It’s so much bigger than the knee pad; how do you even get it in there? It’s hard to explain to other coaches, but we’re actually teaching kids the rules, while they’re putting in their offense.”
Radford understands his program’s disadvantages can put opposing coaches with superior talent in difficult spots. He often talks to opponents leading up to a game about his team’s vulnerability and what to expect, as he did with Moses before the South Atlanta game.
Radford lines up his quarterback 12 yards behind the center to allow him to see downfield and get a little relief from what is normally instant pressure. The Indians rarely run the ball for the same reason. That strategy played a role in the game against South Atlanta getting so out of whack.
“They kept throwing and with every incompletion, the clock would stop,” said Moses. “They’d go three-and-out and have to punt.”
“I tried to explain to him why we were throwing,” Radford said. “We can’t line up and run. We have to pass. It’s part of our strategy.”
Ron Sebree, athletic director for DeKalb County Schools at the time, saw the final score and looked into the game.
“As soon as I was told that Coach Radford didn’t agree to the running clock, then I felt like he was putting his team in a position to give up more points,” said Sebree, who is now the athletic director at Social Circle High School. “The GHSA has measures in place to try to prevent results like that.”
Atlanta Public Schools Director Jeff Beggs also looked into the result after the game and met with Moses to discuss the situation. “While we were not proud of the score, we were satisfied that Coach Moses did everything that he could to keep the score within reason,” said Beggs in a Tuesday phone interview.
Radford disagrees, but doesn’t expect teams to let up completely. He mentioned Buford and Westminster as teams that managed blowouts well.
“I never want a team to stop playing, but have class in winning,” Radford said. “My kids will keep fighting until time expiries. It’s something we emphasize, but don’t try to embarrass us or show us up. We as coaches are in charge of molding people’s minds.”