Here at Rally, we're always in favor of fairness. In Monday's Inquirer, I wrote a column that expressed disappointment over the ending in Saturday's PIAA Class AAA boys' soccer state championship game. Father Judge, of course, tied Central Dauphin and both were awarded co-championships instead of the game being decided by penalties.
As I said in the column, this is a practice that the PIAA has followed forever, for a few reasons. I reached out to Hal Heffelfinger, the District 1 chairperson for soccer, to get a better sense of the reasoning behind the rules.
Heffelfinger is also the former boys' soccer coach at Neshaminy and in 1994, his team was crowned co-champs with Bethel Park. Hal sent me a detailed e-mail I wanted to share with everyone:
Not only was it a good day for District One and District Twelve, but it was a good day for soccer in its purest sense. Considering the France/Ireland fiasco with the Thierry Henry double handball assist on France's goal in a World Cup qualifier and FIFA condoning the offense by standing by a poor no call by the linesmen and/or the referee, I was glad to see great soccer played by outstanding high school athletes.
The decision goes back to the 1982 PIAA state championship game between Neshaminy and Fleetwood that went to nine and a half OTs. We were in the tenth overtime in misty rain and on a cold day that was reaching darkness when PIAA officials said that the tenth OT would be the last and a decision would have to be made as to replaying or continuing play at another time and day. The rest was history, because we were fortunate enough to get the winning goal about two minutes into the tenth OT. The next year the final between Trinity and, I believe, Bethlehem Freedom was into the sixteenth OT and the officials decided to declare co-champions. To the best of my knowledge, their reasoning was and is that both teams deserve a piece of the gold because they have not only battled for so long in the final game but they also have come through a grueling four weeks of district and inter-district play and to put the weight of a state championship on the shoulders and psyche of a young goalkeeper or a young PK taker would not be fair to them or to the other participants who had worked so hard and so long. Also, there was the problem of replaying the game from the beginning or from the time that the game was stopped, where it would be played, and the travel involving the two teams. At the time, the semi-final and final games were played on a Friday and Saturday at Shippensburg University.
I know at the time the game ends it is a bitter taste in both teams' and fans' mouths, especially since we are a winner and loser type of society. My boys felt the same way in 1994, but they soon forgot about that taste when they were met at the turnpike interchange by the caravan of firetrucks and cars for the trip back to the high school.