SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 28, 2010

Altercation at youth football game is under investigation

By Paul Leighton
Staff writer

BEVERLY — Referees were forced to stop a youth football game at Hurd Stadium on Sunday after an altercation among players prompted coaches and parents to run onto the field.

Team and league officials are investigating the incident but would not reveal exactly what happened.

Beverly Youth Football President Hank McLaughlin described the confrontation among the players as "pushing and shoving" after the whistle and said it was quickly broken up by coaches and referees.

But McLaughlin said "some other matters" occurred that the league and teams are investigating.

"It will be resolved in an appropriate manner," he said.

The controversy took place late in the first half of a Northeast Conference Youth Football League game between seventh- and eighth-graders from Beverly and Saugus.

McLaughlin said a late-hit penalty on a kickoff touched off "pushing and shoving" among players near the Saugus sideline. Coaches ran onto the field to help the referees break up the skirmish, he said.

"It wasn't a brawl or anything like that," he said.

McLaughlin would not say whether adults were involved in the confrontation other than in a peacekeeping role.

"There were other things that happened," he said. "I can't speak to them. They are being investigated internally by Beverly and Saugus and by the (league) board of directors."

Saugus coach Vinnie Serino said his players reacted after a Beverly player made a late hit on a Saugus player and was called for a penalty. He said coaches from both teams went on the field to restore order.

Serino said parents from both sides also went onto the field.

"As far as I'm concerned, it got out of control," he said. "It just escalated. It's a kids game. It shouldn't come to this."

Serino said he told the referee he could not guarantee he could control his team after such a rough game. He said three of his players, including his son, suffered concussions while playing.

"I said, 'How do you get your players under control after this?'" he said.

Beverly coach Fred Campatelli called the incident "an unfortunate set of circumstances" but declined further comment while the league is investigating.

McLaughlin said the game between Beverly and Saugus will be replayed at the end of the season.

Beverly and Saugus are members of the North East Conference Youth Football League, which started in 2008 as an alternative to Pop Warner Football. NECYFL director Louis Spano did not return a phone call seeking comment. Saugus Youth Football president Jennifer Thoennes said she was not aware of any incident.

McLaughlin said Beverly's transition to the NECYFL, which unlike Pop Warner does not have weight restrictions for players, has been very successful. Beverly has seven football teams and four cheerleader teams in the program for a total of more than 250 youngsters from first grade to eighth grade, along with more than 100 volunteers.

Beverly teams won four championships in their first two years in the new league, McLaughlin said.

"We're very proud of what we've been able to accomplish," he said.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.