Unger issues a public apology to Willamina
Late in Dayton’s 54-20 win vs. Willamina in the 3A state quarterfinals Friday, Dayton quarterback Nathan Bernards took a two-step drop, turned to his right and threw a short swing pass to receiver Justin Sutton.
Sutton did the rest, taking the ball 53 yards for the touchdown with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter.
While Pirates fans cheered the touchdown, Dayton coach Brodie Unger ran a few paces down the sidelines and screamed.
He was so furious that his team had scored again that he stalked off to the opposite side of the field, along the way tossing his headset at the bench, the earphones getting stuck in the mud.
Not exactly the typical reaction you’d expect after a touchdown, but then again, Unger isn’t exactly the typical coach either.
“To all the Willamina fans, players and coaches,” Unger said in his postgame talk, “there was a complete misunderstanding (on that final touchdown), and that’s something we don’t stand for or condone.”
“That’s just the type of guy he is,” Dayton receiver Forrest Garcia said.
If you haven’t gathered by now, Unger was apologizing for seemingly running up the score. His team was up 47-20 with five minutes left in the game. There was no need to throw the ball, and he was mortified when his play call to Bernards got misunderstood and he saw his senior quarterback dropping back.
Unger wanted to make it very clear that’s not what Dayton football is about.
“That was by no means on purpose,” Unger said. “I take full responsibility under my watch. I publicly apologize to Willamina fans, players and coaches. That was by no means my intentions.”
Senior receiver Jered White said the confusion occurred because Unger’s call was misheard. The Pirates change their play calls around, and Bernards supposedly heard a play with the word “green” in it, inidcating a pass.
“He got ‘Green something,’ and he wasn’t sure,” White said. “He wanted to ask, but he didn’t want to get the penalty so he just called it and it just happened.”
To Bernards’ credit, he also realized what the touchdown pass would look like to Willamina.
“He went over and apologized to them and told them it wasn’t supposed to happen,” White said.
Willamina coach Tim France understood and wasn’t upset by touchdown. He said that was football, and it was his defense’s job to try and stop the Pirates from scoring. Of course, had the Pirates reacted differently and celebrated the score excessively instead of apologizing, he might have thought it was classless, but as it stood, he had nothing but good things to say about Dayton and its program.
The way the situation was handled by Unger should be noted by all coaches. Sports are about more than just who wins and who loses, though you can probably find those out there who disagree with that. Like anything else, reputations are made based on how other people observe athletes and coaches acting during a contest. Certain towns and teams can earn poor reputations for how they treat other teams.
It’s one thing to win, but to win with class is something that transcends the contest and creates respect between opponents.
As Garcia puts it, “We don’t want to show any bad class.”
That’s exactly right, and more people should do the same.