Despite efforts to do so I have not be able to view video of the fight that took place in the 4th quarter of last Friday’s football game between Central Regional and Toms River East, a game the Golden Eagles won 42-0. 

The result of that on-field skirmish was the ejection of three players from each team which automatically bans them from taking part in the state playoffs. The NJSIAA has a strict rule that if any team in any sport has three or more players or coaches disqualified for flagrant unsportsmanlike conduct during the season they are ineligible for post-season activity.

At first I felt the need to see the video to comment on what took place and ultimately will lead to shorter seasons than both the Golden Eagles and Raiders had in mind.  In truth the penalty hurts Central more as at 2-0 they clearly would be a contender in South Jersey Group 4 for one of the eight playoff spots.  East is expected to struggle this fall but still would have been able to add a consolation game at the end of the season.

However who and how the fight started is irrelevant as I’m sure both first-year head coaches,Justin Fumando of Central and the Raiders Kyle Sandberg, had spent hours during the summer talking to their players about composure, keeping their cool and making good decisions on and off the field. Unfortunately that message did not resonate with six young men and as a result both teams have suffered.  Those six players by the way will not be able to play this week which will clearly hurt their teams even more.

I’ve been contacted by a couple of parents who are upset (as they should be) and feel the penalty is way too harsh. That’s something that can be debated but the NJSIAA rule has been in effect for more than a decade and every school in New Jersey knows that.  It’s black and white with no appeal process and encourages athletes and coaches to walk away from trouble. 

I’m sure this week coaches around the shore used what happened in the Central-East game to caution their own players. Hopefully they were listening.