WESTCHESTER, N.Y. -- Westchester high schools schools officials are weighing in on sportsmanship and proactive approaches to preventing violence at varsity events after a student/athlete punched another player during a White Plains-New Rochelle boys soccer game last week.
The altercation resulted in a broken jaw for White Plains player Ozzie Escobedo and charges of third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, against the New Rochelle player Stefedson Dieudonne, 17.
Incidents involving players and fans occurred at football games last fall with when three Sleepy Hollow junior varsity players were assaulted off campus after the Sleepy Hollow at Ossining game on Oct. 19, 2012 and in Rye after visiting Harrison defeated longtime rival Rye 21-0 the very next day, Oct. 20, 2012, when fans got into a brawl.
With Sleepy Hollow hosting and Ossining (1:30 p.m.) and Rye visiting Harrison (11 a.m.) this Saturday, Oct. 19, school officials are preparing to provide necessary security.
Section 1 referees and other officials, meanwhile, suggest that penalties for physical altercations on the field be more severe. The current penalty for a soccer red card (multiple foul calls) is a half-game suspension and added games for red-card ejections.
"We are looking at the situation regarding soccer altercations specifically," Sleepy Hollow Athletic Director Chuck Scarpulla said. "The system of yellow and red cards allows for suspensions beginning with one game for two red cards and a game more for each red card. But when the action gets more and more physical, fights can occur."
Scarpulla, who was a longtime football coach at Ramapo High School, said players, coaches and administrators will join Ossining counterparts in a meeting this week to set the tone for Saturday's big game.
"We're having the coaches, administrators and players meet (Tuesday in Sleepy Hollow) to help make this big event safe and successful," Scarpulla said. "Last year, we had a great game and things went well until there was an incident off campus involving three younger players. We want our players and coaches to lead by example."
Career teacher and David Greiner has been a Section 1 coordinator and basketball and baseball coach at Valhalla High School most recently. He said that sports fights are the byproduct of the win-at-all-costs attitude.
"I have heard soccer described as a highly emotional game," Greiner said. "If that is the case, especially at the high school level, the onus is on the coaches to harness that emotion. The high school sports arena is the most unique. We offer our kids the 'classroom of choice.' "
Greiner said high school sports at the varsity level are meant to teach sportsmanship, teamwork, self sacrifice and commitment.
"Success cannot occur without those foundations. Winning and losing are just byproducts," he said. "If the focus can remain on those things, the incidents that we have seen will diminish."
Yonkers Public Schools coach Mathew Longo said the New Rochelle-White Plains incident was not the norm in his experience.
"I personally have never seen a soccer fight," Longo said. "I have seen the typical faked injury every time an athlete gets touched, and the parents screaming at every missed call, but never a fight."