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Old Thu Nov 09, 2006, 03:27pm
gsf23 gsf23 is offline
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Christian Schools Battle Over Kick

From Mercury News, San Jose, California

Two Christian schools in a schism over kick
By David Kiefer
Mercury News

Two high schools whose existences are based on morals and convictions are being tested, with football as a backdrop.

Sacred Heart Prep, a Catholic school in Atherton, and The King's Academy, a non-denominational Christian school in Sunnyvale, are embroiled in a dispute over who is the true winner of their game Saturday night, which had a playoff spot and a league championship at stake.

At the center of the controversy is Sacred Heart Prep's last-minute field-goal try that was ruled, perhaps erroneously, as a miss. The call, with 21 seconds left, ensured The King's Academy's 29-28 victory and prevented Sacred Heart Prep from clinching first place in the Bay Football League and an automatic berth in the North Coast Section Class A playoffs.

It also sparked debate about honor.

``These are faith-based schools,'' Sacred Heart Prep assistant head coach Matt Moran said. ``They should do the right thing.''

But what is the right thing? For Sacred Heart Prep Coach Pete Lavorato, it means The King's Academy should rescind its victory.

For King's Academy Principal Bob Kellogg, it means no such thing.

Here's what happened with sophomore Matt Bocci's 29-yard attempt, as recorded by two Sacred Heart Prep videos and shown to a reporter:

The shot from behind the opposite end zone seems to show the ball passing behind the left upright on its way down from a kick angled from the right hash mark. The ball would have passed in front if the kick had missed.

A shot from midfield reveals that the official who made the call was near The King's Academy bench when the teams lined up and was running toward the goal post when the ball was kicked. Still 5 to 10 yards from the goal post when making the call, the official signaled without hesitation, while an observer can be seen falling backward in disbelief behind the end zone.
SHP players celebrated while dejected King's Academy players began to walk off the field, until the Knights noticed the official and began a celebration of their own.

``It didn't appear to be good,'' Lavorato said. ``It did go through. Our video shows it was absolutely, 100 percent good.''

Mark Risley, head of the Peninsula Sports Management company that supplied the officials, said Tuesday that he had not seen the video, but added that if the official was out of position, his organization takes full responsibility.
Risley would not release the official's name and does not allow his officials to comment about calls.

``It's a judgment call -- it's human,'' Risley said. ``A lot of people don't understand that in a situation like this, the kids that lost the game go home hurting, the coaches go home hurting, and the officials go home hurting if they have a tough call like this more than anybody else on the field.''
Lavorato hoped to meet with Knights Coach Ron Kellner and show him the video. He hoped Kellner would see the error and change the result, perhaps declaring a forfeit or a tie.

``It's up to them,'' Lavorato said. ``It comes down to, Why are we playing the game of football? The game of football is about teaching kids and making the right decisions.''

The challenge was viewed as inappropriate by Kellogg, who made it clear there would be no such discussion, especially with The King's Academy having to focus on stopping Salesian on Saturday. A King's loss might create a three-way tie for first, with the playoff berth coming down to a blind draw.

``Do you think it would be fair to our athletes that we say, `There's been a misunderstanding and we're going to take the game away from you?' '' Kellogg said. ``Maybe the call should've gone the other way. Or, just because we're a Christian school, we're going to go ahead and reverse the authority's decision.

``Does Sacred Heart think that would be an honorable thing to do? I don't. I think it would be a dishonor.''

The King's Academy (8-0, 4-0) rallied from a 28-7 third-quarter deficit, made a goal-line stand and used that as the impetus for a 99-yard drive that resulted in the winning points, on Sammy Sussman's pass to Jordan Martin on a fake point-after try with three minutes left.

``We refuse to take anything away from our kids,'' Kellogg said. ``They deserved to win this game.''

Sacred Heart Prep (4-5, 3-1) can still earn a share of first by beating winless St. Elizabeth of Oakland, but without the luck of the draw, a playoff berth seems unlikely.

``In our hearts we know we won that game,'' Lavorato said. ``We work hard, and they work hard, but I just want the winner to be the winner, that's all. We told the kids after the game that there is a lesson to be learned from this: that life isn't always fair.''

Though Sacred Heart is appealing the loss to the league, most likely that's the way it will stand.

``On a football field, once the final whistle is blown and teams walk off the field, it's over,'' Risley said. ``There's not a doggone thing you can do about it, no matter how conclusive the video is.''
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