With time running out in the Massachusetts Division 4A championship game, Cathedral High's Matthew Owens ran the QB keeper. Rolling to his right, Owens blew through the defense and sprinted 56 yards for the go-ahead score. He handed the ball to the ref, and that's when he saw the yellow flag.
Owens had raised his left fist for less than a second as he crossed the 20 yard line. In the eyes of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, he had celebrated, he had taunted his opponents, and the play was called back with Cathedral penalized 15 yards. They would not score before time expired, and fell to Blue Hills by a score of 16-14. A senior, Owens's high school football career ended with a loss.
"He raised his hand because he knew was going to the pinnacle," [Matthew's father] Kenneth Owens told the Herald, his voice seared with emotion and anger at times.
"To take the touchdown, to put that much anxiety on an 18-year-old after that performance, somebody has to tell me how do you do that and call yourself just from a football standpoint," Owens said.
The rule is a new one, implemented just last summer. It's adapted from the NCAA's rulebook and forbids "unsportsmanlike conduct or any act that interferes with orderly game administration." The full list of banned acts:
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.
Technically, he was flagged for violations of (c) and (d). "Technically" can go fuck itself. I get the urge to protect the feelings of special little snowflakes, but no one should ever be penalized for being happy about a championship-winning touchdown. There are times when referees should enforce the spirit of the law, and bury the letter of the law under a pile of manure. This was probably one of those times.
Cathedral QB's dad: No arm, no foul [Boston Herald]