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Commentary: Improving sideline security a must in the future

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Joe Williams

Joe has been a contributor at the Williamson Herald since 2006. He has more than 20 years of experience broadcasting sports, including 10 years at WAKM-AM 950.

BRENTWOOD – The Brentwood Academy football team lost a gut-wrenching, heart-breaking battle at home last Friday night in the Division II-AAA state semifinals trying to return to the state championship game for the first time since 2018. The Eagles fell on a controversial, bang-bang final play that, according to the official standing inches from the action, came up just inches short of the goal line.

Social media has multiple angles of the event – all too inconclusive to give absolute clarity on the call. Many, though, make it clear that the aftermath was totally unacceptable.

Within milliseconds, an adult begins to scream at the official from only mere feet away, eventually dropping an audible profanity and questioning the species of the official’s parentage. It’s ugly. Only the appearance of a Brentwood Academy player, who actually stepped in front of the fan and moved him away, stopped the tirade.

And the children shall lead them.

The only difference between that situation and a dozen others like it over the past 10 years at schools across Williamson County, both public and private, is that this one was documented by video, and lots of it. Sideline access and security at high school games other than the state finals is an issue that has been ignored for years.

It’s something the TSSAA and local schools must address heading into the future. You want to know why Thursday night games are becoming more common, including 77 games scheduled for the Thursday of Week 11, the final week, next year? There aren’t enough officials and situations like last Friday is one of the reasons.

Football is a huge thing in Williamson County.

It’s much more than the small-town Friday night gathering most remember; it has grown into a near industry of its own. The media coverage alone has exploded, with not just local newspapers writers and photographers working to the story, but impressive school programs creating full-blown video broadcasts and live game coverage, giving students real-world experience. 

There are team photographers, internet journalists – some legit and some far from it – providing additional coverage. It has gotten crowded on the sidelines. Add to that groups that have no purpose other than rooting for Junior and you’re out of space.

There are some schools that do a very good job of sideline security.

Franklin High School comes to mind, where the athletic administration issues sideline passes specifically for Admiral games and checks them consistently. But there are places in this county where the assignment to cover brings a groan – not because of the players or coaches, but because you know what a challenge it will be simply because there is little to no sideline security. And the bigger the game, the more intense the challenge.

The last football game of the year inside Williamson County has been played.

Hopefully, before the next one kicks off in 2023, the issue of who does and does not need to be on the sidelines will be addressed every school.

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