The numbers sounded too good to be true.
Late on the night of Sept. 15, I received an email from Pencader Charter football coach MacAdoo Harrison-Dixon. He was happy to report that the Titans had ended a 17-game losing streak with a 44-22 victory over Christiana.
Not only that, but quarterback Na’ees Beeks had passed for “more than 600 yards” and seven touchdowns and had rushed for “more than 100 yards.”
If true, a night like that would have certainly set some Delaware high school records. So I wanted to talk with the coach before publishing a story.
I wasn’t able to reach Harrison-Dixon until Sept. 18. But when I told him I was skeptical of the stats, he assured me they were legitimate. The Titans had just enjoyed an unbelievable game.
The News Journal did not have a reporter at the game and I didn’t know anyone who had been there. And I certainly didn’t want to call anyone from Christiana and say, “Hey, did you guys really give up more than 600 yards passing?” So I went with Harrison-Dixon’s numbers and wrote a story that appeared in The News Journal on Sept. 19.
As expected, eyebrows were raised around Delaware’s high school football community. On Sept. 21, I received an email from the coach of another team on Pencader Charter’s schedule. He had watched the tape of the Pencader Charter-Christiana game, and he thought Beeks’ numbers were wildly exaggerated.
I wanted to see if others shared this coach’s opinion, so I called two others whose teams will play Pencader Charter later this season. Those coaches had also seen the tape, and they also agreed that the statistics were grossly inflated.
So last Monday, I called Harrison-Dixon a second time. I told him some other coaches disputed the statistics. He did not take it well.
“We’ve been actually waiting for someone to call to refute those,” Harrison-Dixon said. “If they want to refute it, then we’ve got the tape and we’ve got statisticians. We’ve got people who were at the game, so if they want to refute it, that’s OK with me.”
There was only one way to get to the bottom of this. On Wednesday, a coach gave me a DVD of the Pencader Charter-Christiana game. I took it to The News Journal, popped it into a computer and carefully charted the statistics.
It should be stressed that Beeks is innocent in all of this. By my count, he passed for 380 yards, which would be a fabulous game for any high school quarterback. But it is far short of the “more than 600 yards” Harrison-Dixon reported. And Beeks rushed for only 24 yards, far less than the “more than 100 yards” the coach reported.
During my conversation with Harrison-Dixon on Wednesday, he said, “We looked at it. We watched that tape several times to make sure we had the numbers correct. And they were absolutely correct.”
I watched the game. The numbers were absolutely incorrect.
The News Journal relies on coaches, managers and other team representatives for much of the high school information we publish. We are able to cover less than 10 percent of the hundreds of games played every week. But we are happy to publish scores and details from every game, and we encourage teams representatives to email or call us with information. Obviously, the more accurate that information is, the better it serves everyone.
Statistics are never precise. Two people charting stats at a soccer game will usually have a slightly different number of shots and saves for each team. When I compare stats with other reporters at the end of football games, they are almost always a yard or two different for many players. But they are never 200 yards different.
The News Journal does not have the ability to check all of the high school sports information we receive, but always keep in mind there are two teams involved. If someone inflates statistics or reports a score incorrectly, that reflects on the other team, its coaches and, most importantly, its student-athletes.
Pumping up your players’ statistics may make your team feel better, but it also invites added scrutiny. The News Journal had a correspondent at Pencader Charter’s game against Caravel on Sept. 21. The Titans lost 57-0, and they gained 64 total yards.
Last Wednesday, Harrison-Dixon said five of his best players were unable to play against Caravel because of stomach flu. And he had a pointed message for the rest of the opponents on Pencader Charter’s schedule.
“Now I get a coach that’s terrified of us because he knows what’s coming to say, ‘He inflated the stats,'” he said. “Everybody and every coach that we face from now on, that’s the numbers we’re going to put up.”
That may be true. But before those numbers appear in The News Journal, we’re going to need to see the tape.