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Clarke coach Tim O'Malley avoids suspension in 'lopsided' victory

Clarke football coach Tim O'Malley avoided suspension after

Clarke football coach Tim O'Malley avoided suspension after his team's 43-point victory on Saturday.   Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Clarke High School football coach Tim O'Malley will not be suspended under Nassau County's "lopsided scores policy" after his team's 43-point victory on Saturday, according to the county's football coordinator, Matt McLees.

Last week, Plainedge coach Rob Shaver became the first coach suspended under the 3-year-old sportsmanship rule intended to stop teams from running up the score. The rule requires the coach of a team that wins by more than 42 points to submit in writing the lengths to which they went to avoid running up the score. Clarke's 57-14 victory over Oyster Bay was the fifth game to surpass the 42-point threshold this season. 

Nassau's "lopsided scores committee" determined O'Malley "made an effort to keep the score down as much as possible," McLees said.

“This game is OK because it’s two teams that are [mismatched], as indicated by the score, and the coach of the team that was winning recognized that and made an effort to keep the score down as much as possible,” McLees said.

McLees said O’Malley removed his starters with 7:40 remaining in the second quarter, attempted only one pass in the entire game and only ran the ball up the middle in the second half. The teams also agreed to switch to a running clock in the fourth quarter to speed up the conclusion of the game, which was the regular-season finale for both teams.

O’Malley said his team's game was different than the Plainedge-South Side game, which was a matchup of two unbeaten teams. The coaching staff for Clarke (7-1) told the starters there was “a strong possibility” they would come out of the game in the second quarter against winless Oyster Bay.

“You don’t want to see anyone get embarrassed,” O’Malley said. “You hope both teams line up and do the right thing in these scenarios. My feeling is it takes three groups to manage a lopsided score scenario — the winning team, the losing team and the officials.”

O’Malley said he filled out the required paperwork and sent it in on Monday morning. He’s not a fan of the policy, but he understands it.

“My take on it is, if both coaches end the game with no problem, I think it should end there,” he said.

Oyster Bay coach Dan Ruskowski credited O’Malley for how he handled the game, saying it led to a better overall experience for his players because they had a chance to compete in the second half. Oyster Bay finished the season 0-8.

“Our school is a little different because we weren’t even sure we were going to have a team this year,” Ruskowski said. “Then we ended up having enough players come out for a varsity and junior varsity team for the first time in a few years.

“If it was another coach, who knows, maybe they would have kept the starters in. He gave us chances to score, to come back. The kids all had fun.”

The six-person committee decided to suspend Shaver, McLees said, because the group wasn't satisfied with the coach's explanation as to why his starters were still playing in the fourth quarter of the team's 61-13 victory over previously unbeaten South Side on Oct. 25. Plainedge defeated Lynbrook, 36-0, on Saturday without Shaver on the sideline. In danger of topping the 42-point threshold, Plainedge players intentionally took delay-of-game penalties and at one point punted on first down. 

Plainedge assistant coach John Anglim said after the game “we were just trying to adhere to the rules” and “just when you’d want to score, we made sure we didn’t.”

McLees took issue with that approach.

“It’s a shame that they did that because they prevented their own kids from getting to play,” he said. “So who are they hurting? They’re not hurting us. They’re not hurting the committee. They’re hurting their own kids that practiced all week and deserve to be able to run, block and tackle the proper way and not be put in a situation where we’re making a mockery of a rule that’s in place in the section with which they’re participating in.”

The rule was put in place in 2017 with a threshold of 40 points. It was changed to 42 points the next year to make it a multiple of seven. McLees said the rule has been effective, citing how there was an average of 22 games decided by more than 40 points in the three years before the rule.

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