The Bennett football team finished its season on the wrong end of a surprising 29-28 overtime game against Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake in the Section VI Class C championship game. The game featured a late rally in regulation by Maple Grove, and a key overtime drive, both of which were fueled by Bennett penalties which the team insists were questionable at best.
According to the Buffalo News, Bennett was flagged with 14 of the 20 total penalties in the game, but one key flag drew particular ire from Bennett players and supporters. Here’s how the News recounted that play in particular:
On the play in question, a Thunder Dragons receiver made a catch over the middle and appeared to take two steps before getting blasted by Marcelus Toliver. While the hit was a straight-on shot that jarred the ball loose, with both players running across the yard line coming from opposite directions, Toliver was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver to give the Dragons a first down inside the 10.
It’s not too surprising the call was made, considering rules put in place recently meant to protect players from suffering head injuries.
The Bennett coach initially came out with direct criticism of the officiating crew, which was comprised entirely of white referees, but later stepped away from his critiques. Now the Buffalo Parent-Student Athletic Organization has filed official complaints with Section VI, the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association, the state education commissioner’s office and U.S. Department of Education citing discrimination in the game. For his part, Buffalo Public Schools Athletic Director Aubrey Lloyd has not wavered in his support of the officiating crew.
“I know firsthand the character of the people that serve Section VI,” Lloyd said. “Our district has always been accepted as equal partners at the section level. I have full confidence in the people and that the concerns brought up will be discussed.”