UT’s Berry continues to impress

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It is a good thing Vanderbilt won its game last week and became bowl eligible for the first time in many years. They surely did not get it done Saturday against a weak Tennessee team, losing 20-10 to the Vols.

Tennessee was again paced by another interception return by Eric Berry. As I have written many times, Berry is the son of former North Natchez great James Berry. The younger Berry is a finalist for the Ronnie Lott Award given each year to the top college defensive back in the nation.

I was very sorry to learn of the passing last week of Suzie Ricci. Suzie was the ultimate swim team momma for many years, covering those years when my children were all swimming competitively.

Email newsletter signup

She was always a favorite of swimmers and parents alike. Suzie and husband Armando Ricci were ‘gruff Yankees’ but their love for their children and all of the swim team members was never in doubt.

Suzie was a wonderful person, and I offer my heart-felt condolences to Armando, Rick, Eddie, and Roxy. Suzie and Armando’s daughter Ellen was killed in a tragic accident while Ellen was a student at Mississippi State. I don’t know how anyone ever gets over that. My prayers are with the entire family.

Natchez High ran into one of the top high school football teams in the state last Friday, but deserve congratulations for going that far into the playoffs.

Oak Grove must now face the strong Meridian team, with the winner then facing either South Panola or Madison Central for the State Championship. South Panola is riding an 89-game win streak and seems to be favored to keep that streak going. Time will tell.

Franklin County moves on and will host undefeated Tylertown Friday night. Centreville Academy faces Grenada’s Kirk Academy for the MPSA Class AA state title at 5 p.m. Saturday. The game will be played at East Rankin Academy.

As an old football official, I was upset to read about the Leland v Walnut playoff game a couple of weeks ago. I understand Walnut was leading Leland 21-18 with time expiring in the fourth quarter.

Leland’s quarterback scrambled around trying to find an open receiver, then ran about 15 yards down field. Hemmed in, he threw the ball forward toward a teammate.

The ball hit the ground and was picked up by the teammate, who then ran into the end zone. One (or more) of the officials correctly flagged that as an illegal forward pass.

The penalty for that violation is five yards from the spot of the foul and loss of the down. For some unknown reason, none of the five officials knew (or asserted themselves, if they knew) that no period may be extended if the foul carries a loss of down condition.

Leland was awarded an untimed down after the penalty and threw a touchdown pass for the apparent 24-21 win.

However, a few days later the Mississippi High School Activities Association correctly ruled that the game should have ended with the foul, and Walnut was therefore declared the winner.

Leland appealed, and a court, and then the Mississippi Supreme Court, upheld that ruling. Walnut moved on in the playoffs but lost last Friday night.

From my understanding, both courts reviewed the tape of the game and read the high school rule covering the subject.

Had the officials ruled that the Leland player had fumbled and not intentionally thrown the ball, Leland would have won the game fair and square, and I wouldn’t be writing about it.

The officiating crew was suspended from further playoff duties this and next season and are all on probation through next season.

I think they are actually lucky as I have seen officials dropped completely who made lesser mistakes. Happy Thanksgiving.

And, that’s Official.

Al Graning writes a weekly column for The Democrat.