- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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The Flushing and Dewitt Clinton high school football teams are facing the prospect of forfeiting at least one game as the result of an incident in which players from both teams ran onto the field during their Friday game, invoking the league's brawl rule.
The game resulted in a double forfeit and the Public Schools Athletic League is currently conducting an investigation, according to PSAL football commissioner Al Arbuse. There will be a hearing on the matter, possibly as early as Tuesday.
"We're going to get reports from the witnesses that were there, the officials that were there, and such and such," Arbuse said by telephone Sunday afternoon. "Being that it's a holiday weekend it's very tough to get things into motion, but we'll get it taken care of."
According to the PSAL's website, the brawl rule stipulates that "In the event of an altercation, if teacher/coaches lose control of their benches and both benches clear to participate in an altercation that game will be declared a double forfeit and both teams will forfeit the next scheduled league games."
The PSAL rules also say that more sanctions may be enforced if warranted, and Arbuse said that the teams could forfeit up to their next two games.
The head coaches of both teams are bracing for a worst-case scenario and both believe that the decision to call the game in the third quarter was an overreaction. The decision to invoke the rule and stop the game was made by JV football commissioner Jerry Epstein, who was on site. An interview request sent by e-mail to Epstein was not returned.
While both coaches admitted that by rule their teams violated the brawl rule, they maintained that a large-scale fight did not break out and there were no punches thrown when the teams ran onto the field. They added that if a PSAL official had not been on-site, the game would've continued.
"The coaches from both staffs did a great job of getting out there and making sure that the kids got back on the sideline, but honestly it was a big nothing," Flushing head coach Jim DeSantis said. "Quite frankly, if the deputy commissioner [Epstein] wasn't there, I think the referees felt they had a handle on it. I think the deputy commissioner, if I'm being honest, kind of overreacted to the whole situation."
Dewitt Clinton head coach Howard Langley, who was not present at the time of the incident as he was attending to a player who had sprained his neck, said he has watched game film of the incident and talked to individuals who were there and the incident has been blown "out of proportion." He believes that there is a problem with the naming of the rule, which insinuates that a brawl took place.
"I'm vouching 100 percent for the Flushing team and 100 percent for our team that this situation is way out of proportion, an overreaction and this shouldn't be going on," Langley said. "It's unfortunate that's the way it gets perceived but it's a nonstory."
According to the coaches, the rule was invoked during a fumble on a punt return in the third quarter.
Both teams got physical during the pileup for the football, with players pulling opposing players out of the pile. As emotions grew, players from both teams left their bench areas and came onto the field.
There is a discrepancy in their stories, however. DeSantis said that one of his players "foolishly" pulled one of Dewitt Clinton's players off the pile and the player who was grabbed took a swing at his player, Nicolas Pereira, who "went back at him" and then was hit in the back by another Dewitt Clinton player. That caused his sideline to clear and, in return, bring Dewitt Clinton's players from the sideline on to the field.
Langley, however, said that there was no punch thrown, but there was some pushing and shoving. He said the whole altercation lasted less than a minute and there were no penalty flags thrown on the play.
The game resulted in a loss for both teams because of the double forfeit. Flushing (3-2) is scheduled to face Midwood next week, while Dewitt Clinton (1-4) is scheduled to face undefeated Lincoln.
This investigation comes two weeks after the head and assistant coaches for Boys and Girls High School were suspended, and one volunteer coach, Dwayne Miller, was fired after exposing his rear to opposing fans.
"Honestly, I'm hoping for the best but I expect the worst," DeSantis said. "I just hope the referee is honest at the meeting and he says that it was a big nothing and he said that to us. I heard him say that."
19hBy Jackie MacMullan