The penalty for the gesture by Cathedral (Boston) quarterback Matthew Owens in Saturday’s Division 4A Super Bowl left the losing team Tuesday waiting for an official report from the state association to determine whether the school could challenge the referee’s decision.
Blue Hills Regional Technical School athletic director Ed Catabia told The Boston Globe on Sunday that the referee made “a great call, the right call.”
“We try and play by the rules, and the rule is ‘no celebrating,'” he said.
The referee was enforcing a sportsmanship rule that prohibits players from celebratory or taunting behavior while scoring a touchdown.
The 18-year-old senior was racing for a score as time wound down in the game against Blue Hills. Video shows Owens briefly raising his left arm as he approaches the end zone. The penalty nullified the touchdown, and Cathedral lost the game 16-14.
Cathedral’s athletic director James Lynch said the quarterback’s instinctive move to raise his hand for a few strides as he approached the end zone could not be reasonably interpreted as excessive celebration, taunting or malicious.
“I just give people the analogy: imagine a basketball player making a clutch three-pointer right at the end of the game, and he turns around and he just kind of shakes his fist in the air kind of thing,” Lynch told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “And it was simply just that and it was nothing else … I don’t think it was anything further than just excitement on the player’s behalf.”
Lynch added: “I think it was a wrong interpretation of the rule and I think that our players handled themselves in a sportsmanship manner … for respecting the other team when they received the trophy in the award ceremony and how they handled themselves and how they composed themselves during the game.”
Lynch said about a dozen football players are also on the basketball team and they reported for basketball tryouts and “just kind of moved past it. They understand that it was definitely a controversial call and something that should be looked into.”
Owens’ father told the Boston Herald that his son had a normal human reaction to an exciting moment.
Blue Hills principal Michael Barrett and Catabia did not immediately return calls or an email from the AP on Tuesday seeking comment.
Video of the play on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYkfAwUvVLo