At issue is a rule used by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association that requires an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to be enforced at the spot of the foul, which in Cathedral's case negated a touchdown. As quarterback Matt Owens ran toward the end zone on an apparent 56-yard touchdown run with a little more than six minutes to play, he raised his left arm in celebration.
He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for taunting, and Cathedral got the ball at the 24-yard line. On the next play, Blue Hills intercepted a pass by Owens. At the time the penalty was called, Blue Hills led 16-12. Cathedral was unable to score on subsequent possessions, although it did add two points on a safety with four minutes left.
The rule and its enforcement has become a hot topic. Some believe it was too harsh a penalty for a singular moment of exuberance by a high school player. Others believe the rules must be enforced, regardless of the circumstance.
The college football officiating guidelines, which are used by the MIAA, state, "If the ball is alive when the player makes a taunting gesture, then the penalty is enforced at the spot of the foul - and the key outcome: no touchdown."
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Lorenzo Recupero contributed to this report
UPDATE: 1:43 p.m. -- Read the rules on unsportsmanlike conduct here.
ARTICLE 1. There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct or any act that interferes with orderly game administration on the part of players, substitutes, coaches, authorized attendants or any other persons subject to the rules, before the game, during the game or between periods. Infractions for these acts by players are administered as either live-ball or dead-ball fouls depending on when they occur.
a. Specifically prohibited acts and conduct include:
1. No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall use abusive, threatening or obscene language or gestures, or engage in such acts that provoke ill will or are demeaning to an opponent, to game officials or to the image of the game, including but not limited to:
(a) Pointing the finger(s), hand(s), arm(s) or ball at an opponent, or imitating the slashing of the throat.
(b) Taunting, baiting or ridiculing an opponent verbally.
(c) Inciting an opponent or spectators in any other way, such as simulating the firing of a weapon or placing a hand by the ear to request recognition.
(d) Any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves).
(e) An unopposed ball carrier obviously altering stride as he approaches the opponent’s goal line or diving into the end zone.
(f) Removal of a player’s helmet before he is in the team area (Exceptions: Team, media or injury timeouts; equipment adjustment; through play; between periods; and during a measurement for a first down).
(g) Punching one’s own chest or crossing one’s arms in front of the chest while standing over a prone player.
(h) Going into the stands to interact with spectators, or bowing at the waist after a good play.
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