By George Watson
REDLANDS -- I have been an avid sports fan for most of my 48 years of life, which included a stint as a sportswriter covering high school, college and pro sports, and I am still tying to figure out what happened during last night's Redlands High School Boys Soccer game vs. Oxnard.
There are always opportunities for errors any time a human being referees a game. But what unfolded in this match, a 2-0 loss by the Terriers that knocked them out of the playoffs, was a truly offensive effort by the referees who made it worse with each call that they incorrectly made.
Generally, good referees try and keep themselves out of games, particularly when it is a big match. In this case, the referee and his linesmen infected this game to the point that one had to wonder if they understood the rulebook.
Two plays in particular should be highlighted. The first came during a scramble on the RHS goal line when senior keeper Quentin Gray was tackled from behind by an Oxnard player. Now, in soccer, a tackle is considered something you do with your feet to try and get the ball. In this case, it appeared to be a football tackle as the player grabbed Gray and swung him to the ground.
Inexplicably, there was no call. Not even a foul. But things were just getting bizarre,
A few minutes later, Oxnard passed a looping ball down the right side of the field. Gray came out to get the ball. The player had been running a straight line that would take him past the keeper, but at the last minute, he veered off and collided with him.
Before the player ran into him, Gray grasped the ball with his hands and lifted one knee up to his chest. Goalies are taught to do this maneuver from the first day they play the position. I know because I was a goalie, played for my college team and continue to play today. It is as basic as anything you will see in soccer.
After the collision, which was rather minor, the referee whistled for a foul. I assumed he was calling a foul on the offensive player, which seemed unnecessary, but I figured he was protecting the keeper.
That was until the referee signaled a straight red card -- to Gray. I have been giving this some thought and have decided it has to be the worst call I have ever seen a referee make. Ever.
From that point on, the game turned out of control. Two RHS assistant coaches received red cards, as did two more RHS players, leaving the Terriers to finish the game with seven players on the field.
To be honest, I must acknowledge that the RHS players lost their composure, and then their tempers. Players have to understand referees will make mistakes -- sometimes very bad mistakes -- but you have to compete past those errors if you're going to overcome them and win. In the end though, given the decided advantages that the officials were giving to Oxnard, it is unlikely to have mattered. The referees were too much to overcome, which says all that needs to be known about this match.
RHS needs to consider better control over fans, who were particularly brutal to the Oxnard goalkeeper. Players in games like this deserve better. They are pros. There is no need to be insulting a high school kid, particularly in an age where teen bullying is such a critical issue. I spoke with Athletic Director Jennifer Classen, who was clearly troubled by multiple aspects of the game and did her best to try to control a segment of the unruly crowd.
In the end, what matters is the Redlands boys soccer team put together an exceptional year, filled with the success of winning its first Citrus Belt League title since 2000. Next year's team returns a majority of the players and should have the potential for a banner year. Sadly, the actions of three men sporting referee uniforms ruined the outcome for this year's seniors and ended the season on a sour note.
RHS Head Coach Eric Memory told the the Daily Facts, “I’m very proud of my boys for the season, but obviously disappointed in maybe losing a little bit of our composure at the end, and that’s tough.”
Thankfully, Coach Memory has a calm disposition to his coaching and should have success imparting that lesson onto his team. He put together an able staff that worked hard to lead the team to its most successful year in decades. Their future, under his tutelage, remains very bright.
To read more about the game, click the Facts story here.