GHSA takes positive step to move away from controversial ‘bad call’

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In the Class AAA state championship game between Peach County and Calhoun. On 4th & 8, Peach County's Noah Whittington catches a pass at the Calhoun 5-yard line. He takes at least two full steps and leaps toward the end zone. His arm stretches out - ball in hand - across the goal line. When he lands the ball pops loose. This prompts the game official to rule the pass incomplete Calhoun wins the state title, 10-6.

The Peach County Trojans walked away from the 2017 football season furious, confused and wanting answers. The controversial ending of the Calhoun-Peach County Class AAA championship game was the product of at least two missed calls on one play, which compounded other missed calls throughout the game.

For those unfamiliar with what took place on Dec. 8, 2017, here is a breakdown: With 3:33 left in the game, Peach County’s drive stalled at the Calhoun 21-yard line on fourth-and-8. The Trojans, trailing 10-6, had to go for it and sent Noah Whittington out wide up the left side. He caught a perfect pass from Antonio Gilbert at the 7-yard line and was brought down by Brannon Spector, with the ball in his out-stretched arms, directly on the goal line. The ball bobbled loose as he landed and rolled into the end zone after it seemingly bounced off the ground and his own helmet. Either way, Whittington clearly had possession until he hit the turf, which should have been first-and-goal or a touchdown, unless officials ruled that Whittington stepped out of bounds, as Calhoun contends, and came back in to make the play.

» Did GHSA make the right call?

The play was ruled an incomplete pass, and the call gave Calhoun the ball and moment. The Yellow Jackets walked away with their fourth state title and were deserving champions.

For Peach, life continues, but the questions of what could have been linger, joining a list of other controversial endings in state title situations.

“It’s over and done with,” Peach County coach Chad Campbell said Sunday. “Life goes on. You pick up the pieces and move one. We can’t sit there and sulk on it. I feel like we got a bad deal, but there’s a lot of other teams going through the same thing when they get a bad call.”

And last week, months after the play, the GHSA made a positive move in a effort to prevent those bad calls during significant events. The GHSA executive committee voted to have seven officials on the field for each postseason game, as opposed to the standard six-person crew. The GHSA also will try to find a way for these officiating teams to work together before state title games. Instant replay will not be a reality ... at least not now.

“I think that they’ve had enough of bad calls,” Campbell said. “They’re looking into the situation a bit more, you know. Of course, ours was on the ... well, everybody in the world saw it. But other people have had bad calls that didn’t go their way. Now I see where Alabama is going to where they will have replay in every game. So the seventh official, in our instance, I don’t know if that would make a difference. One guy made a call and everybody else, even the ones who did see the play happen, they didn’t try to intervene and try to help the situation, so I don’t know if an extra judge would make a difference or not.”

Nonetheless, it's a positive step.