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T-ball has hit high school football

December 26, 2011
Weirton Daily Times

On Dec. 3, Cathedral High School quarterback Matt Owens thought he scored a touchdown to put his team ahead, 18-16, with about six minutes left in a state championship game in Massachusetts.

On the 24-yard-line, with nothing in front of him but green, he raised his fist in celebration for about four yards.

Yellow flag.

Owens was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The score was nullified and the ball moved back to the 24.

Blue Hills High School eventually won, 16-12.

"In the game being played, we won the game. Give Blue Hills a lot of credit. They are a great football team, but we deserve better. The game got taken away from us," Cathedral coach Duane Sigsbury told the Boston Globe. "If you're going to take a game away from a kid being excited because he just made the play of his life, shame on you."

Massachusetts uses NCAA rules and regulations for its football games and, basically, the rules say if a player makes a taunting gesture when the ball is live the penalty is enforced at the spot of the foul and, if a touchdown is scored, it is taken away.

We can argue if it was taunting or not, but high school players know they are to do nothing remotely close to what this quarterback did, or pay the consequences.

He chose to raise his fist, a no-no, and was flagged for it.

Excitement, jubilation and a possible game-winning score are no excuses for doing what he did.

Just run into the end zone without incident and the yellow flag does not come out of the referee's pocket.

"He raised his hand because he knew was going to the pinnacle," father of the quarterback, Kenneth Owens told the Boston Herald. "There was nothing dishonorable about the play.

There was no doubt it was a touchdown. He gets 20 yards in - and he's not thinking about the rule - and he just raised his hand.

"He handed the ball to the referee. He didn't spike it. He goes to a Catholic school where they are taught that their God is in the sky. So I know when he raised his hand, he was thanking his Lord for what happened to him today. Football is a team sport. There's lot of kids that are hurting today."

You see there are two adults who have already excused the actions of the quarterback - the coach and the father.

Just find the end zone.

"It's tough, but the official absolutely made the right call according to the letter of the law," Joe Cacciatore, assigner for officials in the Catholic Conference and Greater Boston League, told the Boston Herald. "It says it right there in the rules that any attempt to draw attention to yourself, whether it is pointing the finger, raising a fist or anything like that, is a penalty. We've been instructed to call it when it happens, it's zero tolerance now."

Fast forward to last week when the team was honored at a reception hosted by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

"I think there was a little injustice there," Menino told the media at the luncheon. "I mean we all played sports. We all showed some excitement. For the young man to do what he did, he was excited."

Make that another adult excusing the behavior.

"It's hard to avoid the cliches that will inevitably spring to mind," said Red Sox president Larry Lucchino that day. "But I do think that there is a lesson here about the injustices of life and the randomness of life, and the good fortune and bad fortune of life. These players have learned early on and how one adjusts to that and moves on from that. I know it sounds cliche. But ultimately that is a very valuable lesson and it takes a lot of us much longer than 17 years to learn it."

Said former New England Patriots standout Teddi Bruschi: "A lot of the talk is about the call. The call during the game. But guys, it's not about the call. It's about how you move on from the call. Because this is what sports is. Sports is winning and sports is losing. Sports is about winning championships and losing championships ... It's how you move on from that. No matter how you lose the game. It's how you move on from defeat."

At least Lucchino and Bruschi provided some perspective.

Correct calls will be made that you don't like.

Bad calls will be made that you don't like.

Bad calls do not cost you a win because too many plays happen during a course of a game and those plays have more of an impact on the outcome of a game than a yellow hanky.

In the above game, it was still first-and-10 from the 24 with six minutes left in the game. Cathedral still had a chance to win the game and it didn't.

Oh yeah, just a reminder, Black Hills High School is the Division 4A state champions.

I will never understand why it is OK for guys to beat the tar out of each other in the lane and a touch foul is called 45 feet from the basket.

Placing the ball out of bounds by the referees in a basketball game when the team taking the ball out is taking its time to do so has to end.

Slap a delay of game warning on the team when it happens the first time. A second time means a technical and loss of ball. That will ensure what happened in the Madonna-Catholic Central game will never happen again.

It took two games to prove why it would have been fine if the NBA season didn't happen.

Kevin Garnett missed a game-tying jumper and acted like a punk and the newest Dallas Maverick, Lamar Odom, traded from the Los Angeles Lakers because he got his feelings hurt in a proposed trade for Chris Paul that didn't happen, was kicked out of the game in the third quarter because of two technicals.

If there is one professional franchise that needs to contract, it's the NBA.

You can get rid of Toronto, Charlotte, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Minnesota and Sacramento.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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