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A prep football take on "Deflategate"

Derek Murph has watched the so-called "Deflategate" with mild interest. Frankly, the all-state quarterback says, the whole thing is sort of silly. "They're making a big deal about how much the football is inflated,'' said Murph, a junior at Grand...

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Derek Murph

Derek Murph has watched the so-called “Deflategate” with mild interest. Frankly, the all-state quarterback says, the whole thing is sort of silly.

“They’re making a big deal about how much the football is inflated,’’ said Murph, a junior at Grand Forks Red River High School, said. “But I don’t really care what it is inflated to, as long as I can grip it.’’

In the two weeks leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl, one of the big stories has been "deflategate.'' The NFL is investigating allegations that the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in their AFC championship win against Indianapolis.

Murph understands throwing a football. As a first-year starter for the Roughriders last fall, he was a second team all-state pick after going 114-of-184 passing (62 percent accuracy) for 1,374 yards.

In any football offense, it is the quarterback and the center who handle the ball on every offensive play.

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“I can tell if the ball is under- or over-inflated,’’ Murph said. “But I don’t think it makes a big difference throwing it. Maybe in the wind a heavier ball goes better. For receivers, they can squeeze a lighter ball so it’s easier for them to grab it.’’

In almost every state, including North Dakota and Minnesota, high school regulations call for footballs to be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Each team brings its own footballs to use when it is on offense in games.
Red River coach Vyrn Muir said footballs are checked prior to games by referees. “It’s real scientific,’’ Muir said. “All I’ve ever seen an official do is hold the ball, squeeze it and tell us if it’s good or not. I’ve never had an official say a ball isn’t good to go.

“If we wanted to deflate a ball (after inspection), I don’t know how an official would notice it. And I don’t know how it would help a team, anyway.’’

Norm Dutot of Grand Forks has officiated football for the past 40 seasons, at both the high school and college levels. While a few officials carry air gauges to test footballs, Dutot said, most simply have a feel for the process.

“Some teams do use a little less air in footballs than others,’’ Dutot said. “To be honest, my crews have never tested them (with a gauge). What we do see sometimes are crummy footballs that are so worn that you wonder how anybody could ever get a grip on them. Some have been so bad I don’t know why any team would use them.’’

Dutot said there have been junior high and freshman games where, on occasion, he’s seen officials ask coaches to adjust the air in footballs.

“We’ve never had any footballs for varsity games soft to the point where we needed to test it or inflate it,’’ Dutot said.

“It’s your own ball. The other team doesn’t use it. So I don’t know how it affects anything if it’s within the rules.’’

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Apparently, however, whether footballs are at a precise weight is significant. If it wasn’t, would deflategate have drawn such national attention?
“I think they’re making way too big a deal out of it,’’ Murph said.

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