WPIAL calls out Imani over security concerns following Jeannette game
Displeased by the behavior of fans and some players, and the unpreparedness of security to handle an ugly situation, the WPIAL Board of Directors threw a few more penalty flags in response to the Jeannette-Imani Christian football game.
Representatives from both teams, and game officials, met with the league Wednesday in Green Tree for a hearing to discuss what happened Saturday at Graham Field in Wilkinsburg.
Safety, above all, was the topic of the day. An otherwise thrilling game was overshadowed.
The WPIAL publicly censured Imani's coaching staff and required the school to submit, in writing, an improved security plan for remaining home games.
Saturday's Class A Eastern Conference game was stopped with just less than five minutes to play because of security concerns. Extra police were called to the game after a half-hour delay in the fourth quarter. A fan threw a plastic bottle onto the field, hitting a Jeannette player. Officials said they felt uneasy about what could have escalated, especially when Imani players approached Jeannette's sideline.
Five Imani Christian players were ejected from the game, which No. 2 Jeannette won 54-36. The victory will stand. The ejected players must sit out Friday's game against No. 1 Clairton. No players from Jeannette (5-0, 3-0) were ejected.
“We wanted to hear from the officials as to why they let the last four minutes run off the clock, and there were very few challenges to that,” WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said. “It was the opinion of all involved that there needs to be improved security. We want Imani to detail its shortcomings; the bottom line is that if they're compliant we can all move forward with expectations and follow through.”
Jeannette's cheerleaders and band were sent home before the game resumed. The teams, chippy from the start, were penalized 37 times for 341 yards, 23 of them against Imani Christian.
“The biggest concern was security at Graham Field,” Jeannette athletic director Anthony DeNunzio said. “That was a major concern and one of the main reasons they had the hearing.”
Officials were complimentary of Jeannette and how coaches, players and DeNunzio handled the melee.
Imani Christian officials did not wish to comment. The Saints (3-2, 2-1) have three home games left in the regular season.
Walker suspension reduced
In another matter, the WPIAL censured Highlands boys soccer coach Brad Walker, who was accused of letting a player verbally berate an official with “unacceptable language.” The player in question was ejected from the game and suspended by Highlands. The WPIAL had asked Highlands to impose a three-game suspension on Walker but reduced that directive to one game after Walker appealed.
Highlands was cooperative and will suspend Walker for one game, of his choice, before the end of the regular season. Highlands has six games left.
“(Highlands athletic director) Chuck Debor did a great job making a case; we were going off of what we had in written form,” O'Malley said. “We relieved the three-game suspension, but he needs to sit out one game.”
The WPIAL had threatened to ban the team from the playoffs if Highlands did not cooperate. Debor and Walker spoke at the hearing.
“We are happy with the outcome and the way things were handled,” Debor said. “I have worked in different states, and the WPIAL is the best at these situations. I have a lot of respect for the way they do things, hearing people out and finding out what happened. It is a thankless job.”