Walking alongside an official, Tanner Troutman was led off the football field Saturday afternoon at the most critical of times of Lycoming's 19-16 win over Delaware Valley.
Troutman, the victim of a new penalty which requires the ejection of a player penalized for targeting the head of a defenseless receiver and preseason All-American safety, walked past Warriors head coach Mike Clark pleading his case with the officials.
Clark wasn't arguing the penalty. In fact he said he didn't see Troutman level Aggies receiver Rasheed Bailey to draw the flag. What Clark was talking to the officials about was to make certain Troutman should be ejected on the play, that he was without a doubt targeting the head of Bailey.
The call came as Delaware Valley was trying to climb back from a 10-point deficit with under 5 minutes to go in Saturday's game at David Person Field. Troutman also happens to be one of the most important players on Lycoming's defense.
"We do not have the benefit of instant replay. All I asked for them to do was instead of letting one guy determine whether it's an ejection, I asked them as a crew to discuss it and see if anybody saw something else," Clark said. "I'm not saying it wasn't a penalty, but before you throw out a guy on the most critical play of the game, you have to do what's right and I think they did."
The officials huddled, then reversed their initial ruling and did not eject Troutman. It turned out to be a momentous call, as the junior safety recorded the interception later in the quarter which ended the game and kept Lycoming unbeaten in Middle Atlantic Conference play.
It was the first time this year Lycoming's hard-hitting defense has come in contact with the new ejection penalty for the targeting rule. For Delaware Valley, it was the second time this year an opposing player has initially been ejected only to have the ruling overturned in a conference by the officials.
"That's a genius call. That's the rule that everyone is enforcing. We've gotten videos on it, we've all been instructed on it," Delaware Valley head coach Jim Clements said. "They were supposed to kick the kid out and he ended up going helmet-to-helmet again and they didn't call it, and then he's the one who picks the ball off at the end.
"I don't want to see anyone thrown out of the game. I think it's a bull**** rule because we don't have instant replay. Kids work too hard to get thrown out of games. But that's the rule. It's what you have to live by,"?said Clements.
Troutman had maybe his most explosive game of the season Saturday, intercepting two passes and recording eight tackles. His hit on Bailey came as the 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver caught a pass on a seam route.
Troutman appeared to lead with his shoulder and arrived just as the ball did. Bailey hung on to the ball for a 26-yard completion, and the 15-yard penalty set up Aaron Wilmer's 4-yard touchdown run two plays later.
"I felt like I did what I could. I'm never out there to lower my helmet and hurt someone," Troutman said. "I tried to lead with my shoulder, but you're going to get some helmet. It's a tough call from their viewpoint. I did what I could the safest way I could."
It's the first time Troutman has been penalized this year for hitting a defenseless receiver. He laid a clean, vicious hit on a receiver in the Brockport game, but was not penalized.
"We're supposed to be aggressive and make plays, but you have to worry about them making that call," Troutman said. "You want to break up the pass and lay a good hit on the receiver because that stuff tallies up. What receiver is going to want to run across the middle with it in the back of their mind that they could get hit pretty hard? It's part of the game. I hate to see that part of the game being taken away from football."
"Why would our guy target the kid at the head at that point of the game?" Clark said. "(The officials) talked about it and two felt that he didn't target at the head, but that he did launch. That's all you can do is ask to do their jobs. I'm not going to sit there and quit. I did what I could do to keep him in the game and it worked."