In an effort to do what they deem best for all kids involved, administrators at St. Mary's and Cascade Christian high schools have agreed to cancel Saturday's scheduled football game between the two schools.

In an effort to do what they deem best for all kids involved, administrators at St. Mary's and Cascade Christian high schools have agreed to cancel Saturday's scheduled football game between the two schools.

And although naysayers might argue that you play out your schedule no matter what, this decision is truly best for all involved.

Losers of five straight, St. Mary's (4-5) is down to potentially suiting up 20 players for Saturday, and many of those taking the field for the Class 2A squad would be freshmen and sophomores.

Cascade Christian, on the other hand, is ranked fourth in Class 3A and has outscored its last three opponents 184-0. The Challengers won the 2A title last year and, despite a bump in class level, have been mostly dominant en route to a 6-2 overall record and 5-1 mark in the Sunset League.

Cascade Christian has won the past two meetings against St. Mary's by a combined margin of 114-0, and talks of a possible cancellation of this year's Holy Bowl began late last week.

"Obviously when we set this (schedule) up we thought it'd be a different situation when we got to this point at the end of the year," said St. Mary's Athletic Director James Joy.

"Really what it comes down to, from our standpoint, is it's not a very safe prospect for us putting our freshmen and sophomores out there on the field against their seniors getting ready for the state playoffs."

The game will officially go down as a 2-0 forfeit victory for the Challengers, who certainly would rather play the game but understand the potential pitfalls.

"We definitely understand where they're coming from," said Cascade Christian Athletic Director Dave Fennell. "It's definitely a tough situation for both of us, but you want to do what's best for kids. That's at the heart of the matter."

Not to be disrespectful, but the heavily favored Challengers had hopes of using the St. Mary's game as a way to get their reserves a chance at more playing time. But considering that Cascade Christian's junior varsity team plays against the Henley JV team on Friday, the varsity boys would've had to play into the second quarter to not fall in violation of the five-quarter rule.

For comparison's sake, the Challengers led Myrtle Point 56-0 at halftime last Friday. The Bobcats entered the game with a 6-1 overall record, including a 12-0 victory over Class 4A Rogue River.

"I'd hate for us to play this game and be down by 60 points and have one of their kids get injured," said Joy.

Unlike some sports, football isn't really a game that can be played at less than full speed. Any football coach will tell you that injuries occur more often when a player attempts to dial it down a notch or two.

Joy said the Crusaders would certainly have honored their commitment had Saturday's game been a league contest, but since that's no longer the case, the decision was an easy one to make.

And although his school is losing out on potential revenue by not hosting the Holy Bowl — the Challengers have been averaging about 1,000 fans per contest to go with booster sales — Fennell has no qualms with the decision.

"That's something we'll gladly give up," he says. "We understand where they're at, and that's all part of athletics. Sometimes you have more away games than home games anyway. It's not a big deal."

Whether the two football teams remain on each other's schedule in coming years will be reconsidered on a yearly basis, Fennell added. His hope is to keep the Holy Bowl going, but the program numbers and direction each is going, as well as available bye weeks, will most likely be the determining factors.

The Crusaders' last win over Cascade Christian came in a 45-0 meeting in 2003, and that followed two seasons as an independent. St. Mary's played only four games in 2000 before canceling that season due to insufficient numbers in the program.

There was talk back in 2000 of potentially dropping the football program at St. Mary's, but that didn't amount to much. At issue is whether a smaller school, such as St. Mary's or Cascade Christian, can have success when it has both a boys soccer and football program in the fall. In contrast to the Crusaders, the Challengers do not have a boys soccer program that could potentially divide some of the school's top athletes.

"There's really a question out there on whether soccer and football can mix at a small school," said Fennell. "If you don't have the numbers or the kids out, you can either do one or the other well or, at best, be mediocre at both. It's a tough situation."

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THE ENDING OF SOUTH MEDFORD'S 28-21 football victory over Roseburg last Friday was odd, to say the least.

Facing a fourth down at their own 34-yard line with nine seconds to play, the Panthers opted for a punt formation. After receiving the snap, however, punter E.J. Singler simply ran back toward his own end zone to avoid a potential blocked punt or punt return for a touchdown.

Only one Roseburg player even slightly pursued Singler before relenting, and the time slowly ticked off the clock with Singler standing in the end zone untouched.

An immediate reaction would have been to suggest that the play should be considered a safety and the final score updated to 28-23, but it wasn't that simple on Friday. Singler never once stepped out of the back or side of the end zone and wasn't tackled.

"The whistle never even blew," said South Medford coach Bill Singler. "It was weird. Play never stopped. Roseburg just stopped playing and lined up to shake hands and the officials walked off the field. E.J. could've probably scored if he wanted to, who knows?"

Therein lies the rub for stat keepers. How do you account for a play with no ending?

In the case of Roseburg, the play was marked down as a 34-yard loss in rushing yardage. Since there was no resolution to the punter's actions, South opted to consider it a no-play.

Considering E.J. tossed the ball to the sideline after exiting the front of the end zone, another option would be to consider it an incomplete pass.

Whatever the decision, it's doubtful there will be a more incomplete ending to a high school game in the foreseeable future.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com