Natick defeated Plymouth South, 38-33, in an Eastern Massachusetts Div. 2A semifinal on Tuesday night, but all anyone wanted to talk about on Wednesday was the game ball the Redhawks used.
With 4 minutes remaining and Natick leading 38-27, Plymouth South coach Scott Fry alerted the officials that Natick was using a Wilson GP ball instead of the MIAA-mandated Spaulding J5V ball. The Redhawks were penalized and forced to punt.
“One of my players came over to the sidelines and asked me why can’t we use the balls we normally use like Natick was doing,” Fry told the Boston Herald. “We have pictures of them using the ball throughout the entire game. I was livid when they told me all they could do was penalize Natick from the point that they were made aware of it."
Natick athletic director Tim Collins released a statement on Wednesday:
"The MIAA has confirmed that the Natick High School Football Team had their footballs cleared for play last evening during their MIAA Playoff victory v. Plymouth South. The MIAA’s assigned crew of game officials, as is the custom at the beginning of every high school football game, checked every ball authorized for use during the contest."
It would seem, then, that Natick wasn't intentionally looking to deceive game officials in an effort to gain a competitive advantage, as was the case last month when a USC equipment manager slightly deflated the balls used in the Trojans' loss to Oregon. Still, given that Natick relies heavily on the passing game, Tuesday's game was played in the snow and the leather laces on the Wilson GP supposedly make it easier to grip, one can understand why Fry was upset.
“I feel bad because it sounds like sour grapes on our end and both teams played a great game," Fry said. "For us, the ball really doesn’t matter because we run. But for a team that likes to throw the ball, it makes a big difference."
Natick will play Beverly in the state title game on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. Presumably, the Redhawks will be using a Spaulding J5V ball.
Thanks to ESPN Boston for the heads up.