Dullack's Docket

WL Western's Lanier suspended for D-2 Semifinal due to missed call

Football   | Jeff Dullack

State Champs! Sports Network

While Walled Lake Western should be preparing for the Division 2 semifinal with its team at full strength, but instead is getting ready for Lowell facing the possibility of not having one of the Warrior’s top defensive players.

With about four minutes left in Saturday’s game, Western’s Darnell Lanier made a hit on a Midland Dow receiver and was flagged for a targeting call, leading to an ejection and Lanier being suspended for the next game.

Shortly after Saturday’s game, Lanier said that he had the chance to watch the video of the hit. Lanier did not make contact with the receiver’s helmet.

“What I see is me dropping, I see him going up to touch the ball and I just come in and hit him,” Lanier said. “That’s all I saw, I saw it on film and I hit him straight in the chest. I didn’t hit him in the helmet. Hopefully they overturn it or something, because I really want to play next week.”

Not only does Lanier want to play in the Division 2 semifinals, he deserves to play.

From my vantage point, 10 yards away from the play, it was clear there was no targeting penalty. Perhaps a personal foul was the correct call as Lanier’s hit came after the ball had flown past the intended receiver, but not targeting.

The targeting penalty is one that is called when there is helmet-to-helmet contact made by the defensive player.

UPDATE: According to the National Federations of State High School Associations, there has been an addition to the targeting rule, posted on January 8th, 2015:

A new definition for a “defenseless player” was also added to Rule 2 for risk-minimization purposes. Rule 2-32-16 will read as follows: “A defenseless player is a player who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury.”

After watching replays of the play in question, one from a video from atop the press box, the other, an end zone view, provided by the Western coaching staff, neither play shows any helmet-to-helmet contact.

However, it could be taken into consideration that the official believed there was a targeting penalty, if the official was judging that the Dow receiver was defenseless.

It was a call that should not have been made, but make no mistake, officials miss calls. It’s something that happens regularly. The officials had just one opportunity to see the play, live and at full speed, without the use of replay.

However, the issue goes beyond just the ruling.

Because not only did the officials make the call to eject Lanier, leading to the suspension, but according to Western coach Mike Zdebski, the Warriors are not able to appeal the call despite video evidence that there was no targeting penalty that occurred. 

“I have to check the rules,” he said. “Wes Wishart is on our coaching staff and he said it’s unallowable for it to be reviewed by the MHSAA. With us having the technology we have right now, you should review that. Because to take away a kid’s senior year semifinal game with a chance to play at Ford Field for a state championship, it should be a reviewable thing with all of the technology we have now. That should be an easy no-brainer.” 

Zdebski also added that with cameras on each sideline and in each end zone, a review should be able to be made by the MHSAA on Monday.

“They’ve got a sideline, we’ve got a sideline, they’ve got an end zone, we’ve got an end zone, between the four, you should be able to make a legit call on that. They do it live, right on the field in the league and in the Big 10, what’s so hard about reviewing that play on Monday morning by the MHSAA?”

There is no argument that can be made against What Zdebski stated. There is no reason for a play to not be reviewed, especially considering the circumstances.

Lanier said that based on the reaction from the Dow sideline, he expected the call to be made.

“After the play was called and I hit him and he went down, I saw him laying down and I saw the whole other side yelling and screaming,” he said. “I knew they were going to throw the flag, I knew they were going to call it.”

Lanier is Western’s leading tackler this season, having recorded 129 tackles in 11 games going into Saturday’s contest.

“That’s a big call in this type of a game to take a kid away from the semifinals,” Zdebski said. “That’s a shame. That’s a crime.”


UPDATE: According to a Western assistant coach, the MHSAA has denied an appeal by Western.