WHEELING - For three weeks we've heard about doing what's right from the Brooke football camp. Somewhere between Tuesday, when the West Virginia Secondary Schools ActivitiesCommission ruled the Bruins would play for the Class AAA title, and Saturday night, when they were beaten 30-0 by Martinsburg, those words got lost in translation.
This morning, I'm not sure it was Brooke, and not South Charleston that should have been playing at Wheeling Island Stadium. Not after the Bruins were flagged 10, count them 10 times, for personal-foul penalties.
Brooke racked up well more than 100 yards in penalties, but in truth the number would have been closer to 300 if roughly a third of those hadn't been of the 'half-the-distance-to-the-goal' variety.
I understand it can be frustrating when you're getting beaten badly. And I understand no punches were thrown and a brawl didn't occur. But right now, those semantics are the only thing separating the Bruins and Black Eagles.
''Yeah it was. It was terrible,'' Brooke coach Tom Bruney said. ''I'm totally embarrassed about that.
''We're the ones that were supposed to be standing up for the right thing.''
Two wrongs certainly don't make a right.
Nobody but the players can say for certain what was going on, because after all they are the ones in the scrums. But Bruins linebacker Tripper Naragon said there was a lot more going on under the pile than the naked eye could see.
''They were kinda getting after us out there,'' he said. ''They were doing it first and we retaliated.
''The second person always gets caught. But that's stuff that should have been prevented.
''We should have never retaliated.''
Maybe a couple of the calls were questionable. But things like taunting the Martinsburg crowd while down 23-0, and Brooke fans and players alike cheering when Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Ashenfelter was injured on - you guessed it, a personal foul - has no place in football, and is no better than trading punches.
Neither does yelling obscenities at officials, as many adult Brooke fans were spotted doing on several occasions. Or what about throwing objects on the field in objection to a call?
It got so bad in the fourth quarter that Brooke all-state standout Ryan Lazear had to reel in a few of his teammates.
''Part of being a captain is trying to keep the team under control, and I did my best to do that whether I have to hit them or just talk to them, just depends on who that person is,'' Lazear said. ''But being close to my team, I know how to take care of them.
''Some actions of our players ... but I love Brooke, and I love our fans.''
For his part, Martinsburg coach Dave Walker didn't seem to give it much thought. Of course, you probably wouldn't either if you had just won your first championship in five tries.
''We won, I'm happy and that's all that matters to me,'' Walker said. ''We told them you play for the next play and you can't get caught up in that stuff.
''They want to play football; they don't want to fight.
''It is what it is.''
To be fair, many Brooke players, including Naragon, were seen in the postgame handshake line being extremely complimentary of Martinsburg, even going so far as to tell their opponents that Kam Puller, the Bulldogs quarterback who was felled by a still-unknown illness, was in their prayers.
But while the clock was running, it was anything but cordial.
Next time, act like you've been there before, which you have. And maybe practicing what you preach wouldn't be all that bad of an idea, either.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net