A violent hit in Saturday’s state football semifinal game between Camas and Sumner should have resulted in an ejection, the WIAA’s executive director told The Columbian on Tuesday.
The officiating crew at McKenzie Stadium could not identify the offending player who made a hit on a defenseless player, sources have told The Columbian. Therefore, that player could not be ejected.
Video showed Sumner senior Tyson Rainwater hit Camas punt returner Drake Owen before Owen could make the catch. High school officials, however, are not allowed to use video to aid them.
Owen was on the ground, bloodied on the chin, for several minutes. He did not return to the game. He is, however, expected to play in Saturday’s championship game against Richland at the Tacoma Dome.
The hit, though, sent a shockwave through social media with many wondering why the Sumner player was not ejected for targeting.
It also sparked a larger concern about safety and what can be done to protect players better.
“Yes I have seen the video,” said Mike Colbrese, the executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. “Reviewed it with staff and the commissioner of the (Washington Officials Association). We agreed it is a targeting call and it should have been an ejection.”
Sumner supporters online said Rainwater did not intend to hurt Owen, claiming he was pushed into Owen. They also noted that the the initial contact made by Rainwater was a shoulder and forearm.
That, too, can be considered targeting, according to National Federation of State High School Associations: “Targeting is an act of taking aim and initiating contact to an opponent above the shoulders with the helmet, forearm, hand, fist, elbow or shoulders.”
Though the officials did not make a hand signal, they did reach a concensus that the hit amounted to targeting. Sumner was assessed a 15-yard penalty.
A source associated with the officiating crew said the crew “made an error in not getting the number of the player who made the hit.” The source said the officials were in “agreement that it was an ‘ejectable offense’ but they were unable to identify the player.”
Another source associated with Camas High School confirmed that was the explanation to the Camas sideline after the play.
“I’ve heard the information from credible sources that the officials saw the hit, believed it was a hit that required an ejection but could not identify the player,” Colbrese said.
He added there is no way for officials to determine the identity of the player during the game if they missed it on the play.
“What it tells me is we’ve got some gaps on how the WOA and the WIAA are educating officials. We have some issues to learn so that we can make sure a better job is done educating officials,” Colbrese said. “And we have some things to learn so that coach and players are being taught better.”
As a former official himself, Colbrese said this is the kind of missed call that will haunt the officials.
“We all agree that safety is extremely important and that officials and coaches and players all have a role to play in the safety of the game,” Colbrese said.
“These are the kind of calls you remember and you feel terrible about. I’m pretty confident that the coaches feel badly about it, as does the other player. No one walks away from this thing feeling good.”
Sumner coach Keith Ross did not return calls seeking comment.
The Camas athletic department, coaching staff and Owen all declined comment, prefering instead to focus on Saturday’s championship game.
Dirk Knudsen, who runs Northwest Prep Report, wrote about the hit Monday. Knudsen is passionate about player safety, using his platform numerous times through the years to stress that the game will not survive unless adults do more to protect players.
“The buck has to stop with the officials,” he wrote, asking them to release a statement to discuss this no-call.
Officials rarely go on the record regarding judgment calls. The Columbian contacted the Evergreen Football Officials Association but was told the WIAA is the only governing body that will comment on officials for state playoff contests.
The WIAA did that Tuesday afternoon, acknowledging that the Sumner player should have been ejected.