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DUNLAP AND BURNSTEIN: Tape tells what really happened in West Bloomfield-Stoney Creek game

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EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated at 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday after another tape with a different angle of the ending was viewed. This angle did show that an official threw a flag for a personal foul penalty on West Bloomfield on the final onside kick. It was previously reported and will appear in Thursday's print edition of the Oakland Press that no flags were thrown during the final onside kick.

It’s all in the tape.

That’s a popular saying among football coaches when fully analyzing games, and what really happened out on the field in the waning seconds of the West Bloomfield-Stoney Creek football game last Friday definitely lies in the tape, or in this case CD, of an ending to a game that’s turned into the most publicized high school sports story in the whole Detroit area the past few days.

Many people have definitely taken interest in this story, in particular, news that a 16-year-old West Bloomfield player punched a 67-year old Stoney Creek assistant coach in the face.

There have been many accounts from sources about what happened in the final minutes of this game, from chippiness between both teams, multiple personal foul penalties, controversy over onside kicks and livid coaches on both sides having to be separated from each other.

On Wednesday, Scott Burnstein and I, Keith Dunlap, got a chance to view a DVD of the final seconds of the game to get the real story of what happened.

Some of what has been reported in the past few days is true. Other details reported are not.

Here’s a rundown of what Scott and I saw, starting when West Bloomfield decided to execute an onside kick despite trailing 50-28 with over six seconds remaining in the game.

- It was previously reported that after that onside kick, which was recovered by Stoney Creek, there was roughness that led to two personal foul penalties being assessed to West Bloomfield. There actually was only one. During the kick, a West Bloomfield player heading downfield as a "gunner" hit a Stoney Creek player who was looking at the ball as it was being recovered, but didn't see the West Bloomfield player coming. Stoney Creek head coach Brad Zube said the player suffered a concussion and might be out for the season. Stoney Creek coaches were upset and felt it was a blindsided hit against a defenseless player, and the officials did throw a flag for unneccesary roughness. But the hit did occur while the ball was still in play and it can be argued the West Bloomfield player was simply blocking down field hoping to prevent a Stoney Creek player from coming up and recovering the kick.

There was also brief pushing and shoving between a West Bloomfield and Stoney Creek player near the 50-yard line, but that quickly subsided and the players went back to their respective sidelines.

- After the players retreated to their sidelines, Brad Zube was shown on the video standing on the field and hollering across to the other sideline at the West Bloomfield coaches. Zube said he was upset at the time that his player got injured over what he termed a dangerous play in the onside kick.

From Stoney Creek’s perspective, the game was over for most of the fourth quarter and it backed off by taking its first-string players out of the game. West Bloomfield kept its first-string players in the game against the second and third-stringers for the Cougars. Some feel this violated an unwritten rule that when one team takes out its starters in a lopsided game in order to get bench players some playing time, the other team should heed the message and do so as well.

From West Bloomfield’s perspective, it was about coaching kids to play to the end and not give up. In addition, it was an opportunity for kids who hadn’t scored a touchdown this season to get in the end zone in those final minutes. Any late touchdowns may have been meaningless to the final score of the game, but any kid scoring a touchdown for the first time might treasure it.

- Following the onside kick and after yelling over to the West Bloomfield sideline, Zube ordered his team off the field after he said officials called the game. Stoney Creek probably is the most unusual stadium in the county in that players from both teams have to exit the stadium and go to the locker room by going up the stairs on the far left side of the home stands.

Stoney Creek players peacefully exited the stadium and started climbing those stairs towards their locker room. There were six seconds still left on the clock, but Zube reportedly didn’t want his players to get involved in any confrontation with West Bloomfield players during a postgame handshake.

- It was also reported that West Bloomfield’s players charged the field to confront Stoney Creek’s coaching staff. This is not true by watching the video. West Bloomfield players slowly walked on the field and towards the exit on the home side of the field that the Stoney Creek players had just walked up. The officials themselves didn’t seem to be in a state of panic, either. All they did was slowly start walking off the field after calling the game with six seconds left.

- Once the West Bloomfield coaches reached the field’s exit point, multiple Stoney Creek coaches were standing there. Stoney Creek assistant coach Harold “Buzz” Zube, Brad's father, was being restrained by his fellow coaches because he was pointing at West Bloomfield coaches right at the exit.

- At this point came the big incident that everyone has been talking about for the past five days. The 16-year old West Bloomfield player came over to the area where Buzz Zube, the Stoney Creek coaches and the West Bloomfield coaches were at near the exit. The player did come over and strike Zube. It was hard to tell on the video if it was a punch or just a hard shove, but either way, it was a deplorable act and it knocked Zube to the ground. There were reports that Buzz Zube was knocked unconscious, but he sprung back up from the turf and was restrained again before he could charge forward. A few seconds later, Zube then sat back on the turf to collect himself from the strike and was treated by Stoney Creek personnel.

At that point, Brad Zube, who as at the top of the steps ushering his team off the field, came back down on the field and claims his father was lying on the field out cold. The player eventually was taken off the field by police, but eventually was released back to the custody of his parents that night.

- After Buzz Zube was knocked to the ground by the West Bloomfield player, he and the other West Bloomfield players were led back towards the field and away from the exit by West Bloomfield team captains. The players retreated. Likewise, the Stoney Creek players refrained from coming back down the steps to get involved in the confrontation. The Cougars smartly just kept going to their locker room.

It should be noted that we didn’t see the entire game film and didn’t see whether or not the game was as chippy and filled with personal fouls as some witnesses have claimed.

But this wasn’t an issue of what happened during the entire game. It was more of a case of what really happened during those final seconds of the game, starting with the onside kick. In seeing the tape, the following seems to be the most logical conclusions from the perspective of Scott and I.

- The West Bloomfield player did strike Buzz Zube, which nobody is defending. It sounds like he’ll be punished accordingly by the school district and was kicked off the team. He’ll be dealt with, but he also shouldn’t be too vilified. He messed up, and will pay the consequences. But how many of us haven’t made mistakes in life? Hopefully it’ll be a nice lesson for the kid.

- The Stoney Creek coaches are great men who have done a terrific job this year leading the Cougars to a 4-3 record and playoff contention. Many feel they had a right to be angry at West Bloomfield for not pulling its first-stringers and for the onside kick. In hindsight though, the coaches should’ve probably kept their anger to themselves. They should’ve just accepted the fact that pounding West Bloomfield on the scoreboard was good enough, walked off the field and then expressed their anger in their own halls, not out in public.

- West Bloomfield’s coaches didn’t technically break any rules by keeping first-string players in the game and trying the onside kick with six seconds, and they did do a good job of keeping their cool when things got out of hand. But going forward, showing sportsmanship trumps trying to teach kids to “play until the end.” The argument that it was an opportunity for a kid to get a touchdown who might otherwise not get the chance, or to teach them not to quit, can be applied to the bench players also. Trying an onside kick in that situation just seemed disrespectful to what was a better team that night, had little to gain, and as it turned out, had a lot to lose.

People can still disagree with these accounts and draw their own conclusions. But all Scott and I can say is that we’ve seen what really happened, and that truth definitely lies in the tape.

Keith Dunlap is the high school sports coordinator at The Oakland Press. E-mail him at keith.dunlap@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @kd2578

Last Updated: 10/11/2012 4:14:35 PM EST

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