Football tapes pass muster

November 10, 2006|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

The head of the county school system's athletic programs - after reviewing three separate game tapes - said he saw nothing "abnormal" about the number of penalties in last week's Oakland Mills-at-Centennial football game, which was stopped in the third quarter by game officials as a precaution.

"I saw no egregious behavior by any side," said Mike Williams, coordinator of athletics, who watched the tapes three times each. "I saw penalties that were called, but they were not abnormal over the course of the [typical] high school football game."

But Al Ferraro, who heads the Washington District Football Officials Association, said the six referees ended the game after witnessing what they believed to be an excessive number of penalties. . The score was 44-0 with Centennial leading.

"The referees determined that they could not go on with the game because they felt that Oakland Mills had lost control over what was going on," Ferraro said.

Friday's game and its aftermath set off a flurry of charges and countercharges from parents of players and fans at both schools, as well as a follow-up inquiry by school officials.

The school system in September adopted a civility policy intended to discourage bad behavior - including unsportsmanlike conduct - among students, staff and parents during and after school.

In his review of game tapes provided by parents, Williams said he counted 18 penalties during Friday's game, with Oakland Mills being flagged for 11. But Williams acknowledged that the tapes did not pick up sound from the field, which some spectators have said essentially led to the escalating threat of violence.

"I was not on the sideline, and I didn't hear conversations," Williams said.

Ferraro said his referees objected to comments made to them by Oakland Mills' head coach Seth Willingham during halftime.

"There was a remark made at halftime that the referees did not care for," Ferraro said.

Willingham did not return phone calls to his school and cell phone seeking comment.

Oakland Mills Principal Frank Eastham declined to comment.

School officials continue to look into the matter, and Williams said he has yet to determine what punishments, if any, may result. But he was reluctant to second-guess the referees.

"No one is questioning that decision at this point in time," Williams said. "We do know that they put safety first and that no one was hurt. I would rather have them overreact than underreact and have someone hurt."

Centennial plays host to Howard and top-ranked River Hill visits Oakland Mills in regular season-ending games at 7 p.m. today.

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