H.S. Football Team Loses State Title Due to Touchdown Celebration
As quarterback Matthew Owens, of Boston's Cathedral High School, strode towards the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the state championship game this past weekend, he briefly raised his arm in the air to celebrate the moment.
The only problem: That celebration ended up costing his team the state championship.
A referee threw a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct against Owens as he crossed the goal line, negating the touchdown. Cathedral went on to lose the game to Blue Hills Regional Technical School, 16-14.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association follows the NCAA's rulebook when it comes to unsportsmanlike conduct, which prohibits players from using "abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures" or engaging "in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game."
More specifically, the rules ban players from "delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act[s] by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves)." Players with a clear path to the end zone also aren't allowed to alter their stride, according to the rules.
Now, watch the video, courtesy of ABC News, and ask yourself, did Owens' celebration constitute a violation of any of those rules?
No matter how you feel about the call, there's nothing that can be done now, according to a statement released by the MIAA Wednesday. "Once the final whistle is sounded the game is over," the statement read.
The MIAA adopted the NCAA's rules on unsportsmanlike conduct in 2010, becoming the first state to do so. The new rules went into effect this year, and the organization said it "took comprehensive measures to ensure that everyone understood this rule" at the beginning of the season.
While the Cathedral players may have lost the state championship due to a controversial penalty, they did gain a new ally in Boston mayor Thomas Menino, who stopped by the school this week to invite the team to a "victory lunch," according to the Boston Herald.
"This kid was 18 years old, his birthday, running for the Super Bowl championship," Menino said, according to the paper. "You wouldn't be a human being if you didn't show some expression."
The MIAA tried to put this incident into a larger context in their statement from this week:
"Losing a game or having an official's call go against you or your team are all part of sports. Just like athletes and coaches, officials try hard to do the best job possible. Athletes must learn to put these things behind them and move forward. During their lifetime, they will experience similar situations where they feel "wronged" by a superior or authority figure and they must learn to deal with that situation."
To the Cathedral players' credit, they shook hands with the opposing team after the game ended, instead of storming off the field, à la LeBron James.
"They rose to the occasion," Mayor Menino said on Wednesday, according to the paper.
If only their championship dreams didn't have to get derailed because of a questionable call.
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