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OHSAA investigating controversial ending of Strongsville-Walsh Jesuit girls soccer game

Chaos broke out on the field after a controversial penalty kick call at the end of a high school soccer tournament game last weekend.

CLEVELAND — The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) is planning to launch an investigation after a girls soccer regional final match between Strongsville and Walsh Jesuit ended in controversy last Saturday.

The game was played at Nordonia High School in Macedonia. 

"We are going to investigate that situation and incident," said Tim Stried, OHSAA director of media relations. "When we do that its going to take time because we do have to collect reports from both schools involved and the officials."

The issue that started it all was caught on camera by Ohio Sports Net. A penalty kick with less than a minute to play led to furious coaches approaching game officials on the field. 

Several parents stormed the field to protest the game-ending call. Members of the Macedonia Police Department rushed over to diffuse the incident.  

In 2019, 3News spoke to Scott Sandvick, who has been an Ohio sports official for more than 25 years. He recalled multiple times that he's had to make tough calls. 

"I've been escorted out with police. I've had fans taken out with handcuffs by police," Sandvick said. While he understands that criticism comes with the job, that criticism is getting out of control. 

"At the end of the day when someone loses, they want to say it's our fault. Virtually every game we do," he added.

After Strongsville won Saturday's game, two Walsh coaches were given a red card after the match was called. They now face automatic suspensions for the first two games of next year.

3News reached out to the athletic departments from both schools for comment on the incident. "We have moved forward and are preparing for the girls state championship game," said Strongsville Athletic Director Denny Ziegler in an email.

Walsh Jesuit Athletic Director Karl Ertle gave the following statement to 3News: 

"We congratulate Strongsville for their win and wholeheartedly apologize to them and to our host, Nordonia, for the actions of some in the Walsh Jesuit community following the game.

 The emotional ending of a penalty kick with less than a minute to play led to some of the coaching staff moving towards the officials and two of the coaches receiving red cards. Several of our parents came onto the field to protest the call as well in a terrible display of judgment and with a total lack of common sense that was against everything we stand for as a Catholic Jesuit school. 

 Throughout it all, our team acted as the quality young people they are and consoled each other; it was only the adults who were out of control. The teams did a handshake line and our girls hugged their opponents and wished them good luck.

 We are reviewing the actions with the OHSAA and will fully support their decision and accept any consequences as we work to ensure this never happens again. 

 These actions are absolutely the opposite of what the standards of Walsh Jesuit are and I apologize for the conduct of our coaches. We will work to use this as a teaching moment for both adults and students going forward."

While the OHSAA says incidents like this are not reported very often, they do occur often enough to cause a bigger issue. "Situations like that with ugly behavior is part of the reason why we're looking at an officials shortage," said Stried.

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