Did Riverhead tailback Charles Bartlet receive a handoff from quarterback Ryan Bitzer before the clock reached 0:00 in the Blue Waves’ dramatic 43-42 victory over Half Hollow Hills West last Saturday?
That was the ruling on the field, when officials allowed Bartlet’s 5-yard run for the winning touchdown, prompting some dissent from Hills West players and coaches. Later, one MSG Varsity cameraman who had captured the play on video with the scoreboard visible in the background, told me he thought the handoff occurred a split second after the clock turned to all zeroes. That appeared to be the case when I watched the game highlights on MSG Varsity later.
However, and this is the key point, the scoreboard clock is not the official game clock. That is kept on the field, to prevent the home timekeeper from, inadvertently or not, having either a quick or a slow trigger finger. In fact, during that final drive, the referee called upstairs to correct the time remaining on the scoreboard clock from 20 to 14 seconds before third down from the Colts’ 9. Bitzer completed a 4-yard pass to the 5, then hurriedly gathered his team for a quick huddle and called the final play.
In the referee’s opinion, according to the time being kept on the field, Bartlet took the handoff just before time expired. "It was the referee’s decision as far as whether we got it off in time. I couldn’t tell," Riverhead coach Leif Shay said. "I’ve had a few of those go against me in the past."