Mass. high school football power eliminated in sectional semis after foe given 'fifth down'

Mass. high school football power eliminated in sectional semis after foe given 'fifth down'


Mass. high school football power eliminated in sectional semis after foe given 'fifth down'


Two Massachusetts powers — Everett and Central Catholic — faced off in a Northern Sectional semifinal with predictably dramatic results; Central Catholic eventually emerged as 39-37 victors in overtime to reach the sectional finals. There’s just one issue: Everett claims the game only reached overtime because Central Catholic was given a ghost ‘fifth down’ on a critical third quarter drive.

As reported by the Boston Globe, the circumstances around the extra down are confusing, involving a spot foul penalty, a series of runs followed by an incompletion and a protest by the Central sideline. Here’s how it all apparently played out:

On what was listed as fourth and 8 — but was actually the fifth down — the Raiders executed a fake punt for 9 yards. On the following play, Central scored on a 26-yard pass for a 31-24 lead.

The sequence of plays went like this:

■ 1-10 at Everett 37: 6-yard run

■  2-4 at 31: 9-yard run negated by offensive holding penalty (minus-10 yards from spot of foul, which occurred at the 30)

■  2-13 at 40: Incomplete pass

■  3-13 at 40: 2-yard run

■  3-11 at 38: 3-yard pass

■  4-8 at 35: 9-yard fake-punt pass play

■  1-10 at 26: 26-yard touchdown pass

The fifth down and subsequent touchdown proved to be a crushing blow to Everett’s season, and continues to haunt Everett coach Theluxon Pierre.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” Pierre told the Globe. “How do you make that mistake? You have five refs out there.

“This is ridiculous. You don’t do that to kids.”

The referees shouldn’t do that to kids, and its doubtless that they never intended to. Yet that’s still what happened, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) now contends there is no recourse to change the events that have already passed.

Perhaps more concerning is that no changes — such as the potential implementation of video instant replay review in the playoffs — will be made to the Massachusetts football officiating process unless a formal challenge is filed and a debate determines that change is needed. That still feels some ways away in the aftermath of Saturday’s catastrophic officiating error.

“(Instant replay is) certainly something to think about,” Brian Doherty, president of the Association of New England Football Officials, told the Globe.

“You have that in college, where an official in the booth can fix a catastrophic mistake. But we don’t have that ability [in high school] right now. It’s disheartening . . . but nobody feels worse than the officials that were in that game.”


More USA TODAY High School Sports