Middletown 36, St. Vincent 7: No dishonor in losing, or winning

Middletown coach Bill Foltmer (PD file)


Too many times, “sportsmanship” is used by coaches the same way a politician makes a campaign promise. Sounds good at the time. But when it’s time to implement, somehow it never seems terribly practical. Something always gets in the way. Like ego.

Saturday afternoon at Yarbrough Field, Middletown coach Bill Foltmer had a chance to massage his ego as well as his school’s. A 43-7 victory over St. Vincent would have looked more impressive on paper than a 36-7 win, and a small school like Middletown needs all the help it can get to impress the NCS people who decide who plays in the postseason.

With two minutes left in the game, the temptation to disregard “sportsmanship” was strong. Middletown had first-and-goal at the St. Vincent 1-yard line. That Middletown could have punched it in was almost a given. At that point in the game, Middletown had amassed 537 yards total offense, averaging 10.9 yards each play. St. Vincent, in comparison, had gained only 89 yards the entire game.

What did Foltmer do? He asked his running back, John-Wesley Davis, to play quarterback, take the snap and take a knee. Davis did that three times, losing a yard each time, the last knee running out the clock. Foltmer didn’t think twice about it.

“It’s more of an ethical thing with me,” Foltmer said. “But it’s also because of my friendship with Gary (Galloway, St. Vincent’s coach). It was the right thing to do. What’s to gain with another touchdown? We had the game won. I don’t need to score 40-some points. What goes around comes around.”

Across the other side of the field, Galloway noticed and brought it up to his team after the game.

“I told them that’s the kind of program we want to be,” said Galloway,referring to winning consistently and also winning with honor. “In all the years I have been friends with Bill (26 and counting), that’s all I have ever seen or heard about the man. When I first took the job here at St. Vincent, I got pounded a lot those first few years. I remember what it was like.”
Not that anyone, he said, tried to run up the score but, rather, what it was like to get stomped. Coaches have long memories when it comes to getting stomped.

“And you could talk to anyone I ever coached against,” Galloway said, “and no one will ever say I ran up the score on them.”

Yes, St. Vincent got stomped Saturday, that much was clear, and Galloway sees the 36-7 rout as something his kids should remember and put into perspective.

“There are going to be days like this when they are adults,” Galloway said. “Work will be awful. Whatever. They’ll have to deal with it. Just like today.”

St. Vincent will have to deal — and Galloway won’t gloss this over — with how to tackle. If one glaring weakness revealed itself, it was St. Vincent finding the Middletown runner but then sliding off, like the ball carrier was dipped in grease.

“They are in position to make the tackle,” Galloway said, “but they still aren’t wrapping people up. But being in position they are showing me they are trying.”

Of course, one of the other aspects of sportsmanship is acting maturely to on-going setbacks. St. Vincent (1-2) has had a problem tackling all season, but Galloway is not about to punish his kids by sending them out there to thump each other late into the night until they get it right.

“I’m not going to put them out here on Monday and Tuesday and hit each other,” Galloway said.

This is not like they hurled a spit-wad at a teacher: Galloway is not going to punish them. He is going to teach them, over and over, if necessary, and he won’t turn them into bloody stumps in the process. The season is a journey, the way Galloway sees it, to get better, not to get mad. Keep the ears open. And the eyes, too. Notice the lessons football can teach. Like sportsmanship.

“Bill’s a man of character, a class act all the way,” Galloway said.

If his players were to receive those same compliments, if that’s how other teams will see his team this season, then that 36-7 defeat Saturday was not a total loss, not a total loss at all.