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Bosco’s Corner: Refs need to get their act together

Going at referees is easy, so I don’t like to do it, but after the first two weeks of the new high school football season there is little alternative for me but to call for someone, anyone, to step up and sit these guys in stripes down for a long talk.

When officials do not know the rules of the game, they should not be officiating. But that’s what happened Sunday afternoon at St. John’s University, when two officials refused to work the St. Francis Prep-Christ the King match-up because there was no doctor present.

According to Christ the King Athletic Director Bob Oliva, who was at the game, the two officials Oliva referred to as “city refs” were not willing to work the game until a doctor provided by the home team, in this case Christ the King, arrived at DaSilva Memorial Field.

Oliva said that officials for CHSFL games are provided by two organizations headed by Tom Grant (city) and Mike Coyle (island). Three of the officials on the field and the clock operator were provided by the Island, while two were from the City. The head official, who was from the Island group, would seemingly have had the last say in the matter, but didn’t, as it turned out.

“Our CHSFL rules clearly state a varsity game can only start when you have a doctor or an EMT/paramedic,” Oliva said. “We’ve always played that way. We do have a doctor who comes to the games, but it’s not mandatory. And he was coming, but he didn’t know he had to be here at game-time.

“[The two city officials] were under the assumption that that wasn’t the case. They would not officiate the game under that set of rules,” Oliva added. “I went down there to talk to them and explain to them that that was the rule, though I had nothing in writing. (St. Francis Prep head coach Vince) O’Connor at that point said he wasn’t really sure and he said to be safe he’d rather not start the game.”

All this followed what everyone in attendance thought was to be the start of the game. Christ the King won the coin toss and deferred, opting to kick to open the game. The kicking unit took the field, the ball was on the tee and place kicker Justin Capace started stretching out his leg.

St. Francis Prep then took the field as well, 11 players in what looked to be kick return formation, but with an assistant coach in tow, directing his players while standing in the middle of the field near the 30-yard line.

Surprising nearly all in the press box, the Prep players then left the field and another squad, which appeared to be the kick-off team, took the field, again with an assistant coach. Again the Prep players departed and yet a third (or possibly the first unit) took the field again, all the while CK’s players waited for the whistle to kickoff.

Finally a conference began at midfield, with representatives from both teams and most of the officials. The call came up to the press room a few minutes later — now about 15 minutes past the scheduled kick-off time of 1:30 p.m. — that two refs and St. Francis Prep would not play without a doctor.

“The city officials said they were informed by their commissioner not to play a game without a doctor present,” O’Connor said. “We were in no position to override them.”

It was proposed at one point that the game proceed without the two city officials and the official clock operator move down to the field to take one of the vacant spots. But St. Francis Prep vetoed that idea, stalling the game until the Royals, who stood to forfeit, managed to make a doctor appear.

“You can play with three officials. It’s not recommended, but you can do it,” Oliva said. “I got on the phone and called Dr. Bosco, Joe Bosco, who was coming anyway, but was stuck in traffic.”

Meanwhile, my intrepid reporter colleagues and I are now on the sidelines trying to get a handle on things. My silk shirt is getting soaked in the rain while CK coach Mike Cassidy is trying desperately to keep his cool.

At one of the midfield conferences, of which there were a few, an assistant from St. Francis Prep and someone from the CK staff got into a heated exchange and the two had to be kept apart. The kids were stretching, then sitting, stretching, then sitting on a dark and rainy afternoon.

It was surreal and unnecessary. The head official should have taken control and started the game, city officials or not. And St. Francis Prep, which was not willing to take the field because no one representing the team at the field was sure about the rule, should have been threatened with forfeit if they did not take the field.

Instead, Christ the King was the one facing forfeit and had done nothing wrong. When Dr. Bosco — who is no relation to me — did arrive at the field, some 62 minutes after the scheduled kick-off, it was just in time. The officials were all set to call the game a wash and award St. Francis prep the win.

On top of everything, the game had to be completed by 5 p.m. because the field was scheduled to be used by a local soccer team. The St. John’s staff at the game told the two teams this and both rushed players not fully stretched onto the field to start the game.

On the opening kick-off, two players, one from each side, were hurt, thankfully, not seriously.

Prep won the game, CK lost it and the officials nearly ruined it. That should never happen on the high school level.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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