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High School football notebook Ejection ruling creates frustration for East Haven

November 6, 2018

East Haven senior running back Ryan Cordova was ejected in the final minutes of Saturday’s 11-8 non-league victory over Coginchaug/East Hampton/Hale Ray for allegedly throwing a punch after a play, according to what the head official reported to East Haven coach Scott Benoit.

CIAC rules explicitly state ejections are not appealable beginning the moment referees leave the field of play and that Cordova would be suspended for the following game, in this case East Haven’s impending showdown at Sheehan (6-1) on Nov. 16. It’s already a game with major Class M playoff implications.

Regardless, East Haven (7-1) believed the report would not be official until the report was submitted to CIAC and thought it was given reprieve when Bill Ricco Jr., the commissioner of the New Haven Football Officials Association, agreed to review the play in question with Vincent Morrissey, the NHFOA director of officiating, and Mike Barbaro, a member of the Better Officiating Committee.

The NHFOA members determined that Cordova, whom they did not name in an email explaining the situation, had given the appearance of a punch when he moved to yank his arm out of a pile of players and concluded that they would not be adding the player’s name to their disqualification report to the CIAC. “The goal is to get it right,” Riccio said in the email. “I believe we did so.”

Within two hours, however, Riccio announced he had reversed this decision based on CIAC rule 4.6.A, which says, with their emphasis, “There is NO appeal procedure that a school may use relative to disqualifications. Disqualification is a judgment call by an official and as such is not appealable. ...Once the game official(s) leaves the site of the contest all decisions on game qualifications are final.”

CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini confirmed the suspension with East Haven principal Vincent DiNuzzo on Monday.

DiNuzzo, who is also a member of the CIAC’s Board of Control, said he accepted the suspension based on CIAC’s rule, but expressed frustration over the procedure.

“I’m disappointed,” said DiNuzzo, who is also a basketball referee for IAABO Board 10 in New Haven. “I get the rule. It’s clearly written. It’s in the CIAC’s handbook. I understand that. I disagree that there’s no appeal process.

“I understand from CIAC’s point of view. They don’t want to be hearing appeals five days a week, either. It’s certainly something that needs to be addressed.”

Riccio, who served as Connecticut’s national interpreter of rules and has 44 years experience as an official before taking over for Steve Naracci as the NHFOA commissioner this fall, took full responsibility for the confusion. He said he’d believed incidents could be reviewed.

“I am deeply embarrassed and sorry for this error because it gave false hope to a team, and was a rule that I as commissioner should have known,” he said in a statement. “Please accept my sincerest apologies for the error and for the angst it causes all.”

Sources have said a proposal was on the table to add an appeals process for disqualifications for 2020, but has not yet been heard by the CIAC’s Board of Control.

DiNuzzo acknowledged the “bad” optics of defending one of his students — who is also one of East Haven’s best players — while he is a member of the Board of Control, which approves rules for the state’s governing body. He also said nobody’s to blame for the confusion over the ruling, least of all Riccio.

“Mr. Riccio was trying to do the right thing, and that’s to get it right, and he believed they got it right,” DiNuzzo said. “But the CIAC has to enforce its rule and the officials did their best during the live action of a game. I’m just frustrated with the process for a kid who I think was wrongfully penalized.”

GROUND AND POUND

Thanks to Mother Nature’s persistent rain and gusting winds Friday night, St. Joseph’s 17-14 road triumph over Staples-Westport had an old school gridiron tone. The ball wasn’t thrown much at the Staples Stadium as each side made about 20 passes for less than 100 yards.

Ground and pound was the main course. St. Joseph had 187 yards on 32 carries thanks to Jaden Shirden (27 carries, 172 yards). The Cadets’ offensive line of Robert Mihaly, Mark Arnone, Dennis Elrod, Chris Kiley, Nick Dilorio and Rich Licursi should be commended for their work in the trenches against a bigger Staples defense.

Staples finished with 37 carries and 155 yards led by quarterback Jake Thaw (20 carries, 103 yards).

The kicking game on both sides overcame the elements.

Staples’ A.J. Konstanty had a number of good punts from near his own end zone to keep the Wreckers in decent shape in the field position battle. Bradley Cox was 2-for-2 on PATs.

For St. Joseph, senior Luke Kirby’s 34-yard field goal provided the margin of victory. Quarterback David Summers had a number of successful pooch punts to help in the field position battle.

— Rich DePreta

TIME FOR ANALYTICS

St. Joseph’s victory also had an effect on the state playoff ranking, solidifying the No. 2 slot in Class M for the 2017 Class S champ Cadets.

St. Joseph (7-1) has a 136.25 average. The Cadets increased their lead over Sheehan-Wallingford (6-1, 115.71 average, which beat Bassick-Bridgeport Friday) and Killingly (7-1, 111.25 average, which beat Trinity Catholic-Stamford).

St. Joseph might catch No. 1 Berlin (8-0, 140.0 average). Both schools have two games remaining.

Staples (6-2) is clinging to the No. 8 slot in Class LL with a 96.25 average. At No. 7 is New Britain (7-1, 115.0 average).

Nipping at Staples’ heels are No. 9 East Hartford (6-2, 95.0 average, two games left vs. three-win squads) and New Canaan (6-2, 93.75 average, games left with No. 11Fairfield Ludlowe (six wins) and No. 2 Darien (eight wins).

— Rich DePreta

SACK ATTACK

Mozi Bici was a one-man wrecking crew for Greenwich in its game against Ridgefield at Tiger Hollow Stadium on Friday night.

The Cardinals’ senior defensive end was in the Tigers’ backfield throughout as he registered eight sacks. If that wasn’t enough, he had numerous tackles, returned a blocked punt for a touchdown and recovered a fumble. As for his big sack night — he set a state record for most sacks by a player in one game.

Besides sacking Ridgefield quarterback Owen Matthews eight times, Bici also had several pressures and was instrumental in disrupting the Tigers’ usually high-scoring offense the whole game. Greenwich, which visits Danbury on Friday, improved to 7-0 with the victory.

— David Fierro

COOL HAND LUKE

Newtown quarterback Luke Melillo didn’t have to do a lot to lead his team past Brookfield Friday night thanks to an impactful defense, but the senior standout made several highlight-reel plays to keep drives alive.

A pair of third-down conversions — including one to Harry Lucas that involved eluding the Bobcats’ pass rush — showed off Melillo’s athleticism. He’s completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,264 yards and 10 touchdowns, along with adding 277 yards on the ground.

“I think that’s what he does best,” Nighthawks coach Bobby Pattison said. “We call him ‘Cool Hand Luke’ because he’s cool, calm and collected. He’s having a stellar year for us; one of the best things about him is his ability to extend plays.”

Newtown sits at No. 4 in the Class LL rankings with two games remaining, leaving the possibility of opening the playoffs on the road despite posting a perfect regular season.

— Ryan Lacey

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