The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has ordered Natick High football coaches to attend sportsmanship classes after the team used an illegal football during a rainy playoff victory over Plymouth South in November.
The football dispute began when Natick used a Wilson ball during its Division 2A semifinal game with Plymouth South, which Natick won, 38-33.
Plymouth South used the Spaulding J5V ball, the official ball of the MIAA postseason, but a ball many coaches say is inferior to the Wilson ball. All schools, including Natick, were instructed to use only the Spaulding J5V at a meeting the day before the semifinals.
But at the game site, a Natick coach asked again about the balls and was told by officials at the site that because of the poor weather conditions they could use any ball they wanted. Plymouth South was not given the same message.
In the fourth quarter, Plymouth South pointed out Natick’s use of the Wilson ball to official’s and Natick was penalized 15 yards. But Plymouth South administrators felt Natick gained an unfair advantage.
Troy Flutie threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another for the Redhawks.
Plymouth South requested a special meeting of the football committee, which was held Dec. 19. Six decisions were made by the committee and Plymouth South, represented by coach Scott Fry, principal Pat Fry, and Vocational Studies Principal James Hanna, were at the MIAA meeting on Wednesday to appeal two of them.
The first was the committee’s 11-0 vote that Natick did not intentionally use the Wilson ball to gain an advantage.
“I’m upset with the fact our integrity is being questioned,” said Natick principal Rose Bertucci, who was joined by athletic director Tim Collins and coach Mark Mortarelli. “The officials made a game-day decision and they [coaches] went with that.”
“I would never intentionally cheat in a football game,’’ said Mortarelli, whose team went on to lose the Super Bowl, 28-21, to Beverly. “I feel horrible that this whole situation happened.”
But Plymouth South believes its team paid a price for obeying the rules. “The Wilson ball provides a significant advantage,’’ said Hanna.
The board went into executive session for close to an hour. Their decision? Believing that Natick never should have asked about using the Wilson ball and doing so was an unsportsmanlike act, the board ordered all Natick football coaches to attend not one, but all three classes offered by the National Federation as well as the MIAA’s class on sportsmanship.
“I view this as a mistake by the Natick coaches. I view this as a mistake by the officials,” said Shawsheen superintendent Charles Lyons, a member of the MIAA board.