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Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Ball controversy surrounds Natick vs. Plymouth South

By Scott Barboza

While Natick football enjoyed a 38-33 victory over Plymouth South in Tuesday night's Eastern Mass Div. 2A semifinal, the game ball used by the Redhawks is gaining all the attention on Wednesday.

Plymouth South questioned whether Natick was using the game-issued ball in the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's loss. At that time, the referees conferred and assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on the Redhawks bench when they found Natick was using a Wilson GP series football, not the Spaulding J5V, which is the MIAA-issued ball used at all playoff games.

The game balls -- an allotment of one for each team -- is distributed at Monday's administrators pregame meeting. However, the approval of game balls is done on-site during the pregame officials meeting. Natick was allowed to use the ball at that time.

Attempts to reach the MIAA for comment had yet to be returned as of the time of the publication of this article and Natick athletic director Tim Collins is expected to release a statement on the matter.

Plymouth South athletic director and head coach Scott Fry indicated to ESPN Boston this afternoon that he has not filed a formal protest with the MIAA.

"I'm not looking to play on Saturday," Fry said Wednesday afternoon via phone. "We’ll have our chance to meet with football committee, and Natick in December and we'll talk about how things could've been handled differently.”

Fry said the Wilson GP series is the game ball for all of the Panthers' regular season games, so he's familiar with the model and noted the color discrepancy between the two models. While adding that the size of the ball is comparable, it is Fry's opinion that the Wilson model might provide a competitive advantage for a passing-oriented team, particularly in Tuesday night's slushy conditions which saw a mix of freezing rain and snow fall across the region.

“One’s a lot easier to handle in the rain," Fry said of the Wilson ball. "It’s much easier to handle and that’s why many teams use it. If it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t be mandatory.

He continued, “It was an unfair advantage. Everybody should be playing by the same rules and that's the part that's going to hang over our heads. But I take nothing away from the Natick kids, they’ve played phenomenal and they deserve it.”