An altered videotape has cost Rosamond High School a chance at a football championship and delayed Orange Lutheran's appearance in the title game a week.
Rosamond was removed from the Southern Section playoffs Friday, a day before it was scheduled to play Orange Lutheran for the Division X title, after officials found that a game videotape given to Lancer coaches as part of an exchange had been altered.
Orange Lutheran instead will play Cerritos Valley Christian for the division title at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday at Orange Coast College. Valley Christian, which lost to Rosamond, 45-10, in the semifinals, defeated Lutheran, 36-31, in November to win the Olympic League title.
Lutheran officials discovered 13 seconds of blank spots on their tape of Rosamond's semifinal game against Cerritos Valley Christian.
Dean Crowley, Southern Section commissioner, said the violations "were pretty clear. And it's a matter of ethics. They edited certain plays that were scoring plays. For the most part, they were passing plays. And this is a running team."
Crowley said Rosamond violated Rule 1931.3 of the Section Blue Book, which in part reads: "These film/tapes will be unedited and shall include all plays as originally filmed/taped." A Rosamond assistant coach admitted to the violations.
Rosamond Coach Lon Boyett refused to comment after leaving a two-hour hearing Friday at the section's Cerritos office, where a three-person committee heard testimony from all involved and upheld Crowley's ruling. Calls to Rosamond school officials were not returned.
An expulsion from a championship game for rules violations is "unprecedented," Crowley said. The only other time a team was removed during the playoffs was in 1974, when Santa Fe Springs St. Paul had to forfeit its victory against Whittier Pioneer because three St. Paul assistants were caught filming a Pioneer practice from a van across the street from the school.
Crowley said his office was informed of Lutheran's suspicions on Wednesday. Bill Clark, assistant commissioner, contacted Rosamond Principal Richard Stockton. During his investigation, Clark contacted the coaches of Rosamond's three previous playoff opponents--Los Angeles Cathedral, Phelan Serrano and Valley Christian--to ask if they had noticed irregularities in the exchanged videotapes. Each said yes.
"Rosamond first denied it," Crowley said, "but then we got a call [Thursday] from Stockton saying yes, the films had been altered. I told them I had no alternative but to remove them from the playoffs."
Crowley said he received a call late Thursday from Boyett, who, Crowley said, claimed "we had been fooling around, and in joking we took a play out. We were joking, but we gave them the wrong film." Crowley said he was unswayed.
During Friday's hearing, Rosamond assistant coach Dan Steen admitted game videotape had been altered or edited "a dozen times," Crowley said. "We can understand mistakes in filming, but not an intent to deceive."
Tom Triggs, Buena Park principal and president-elect of the section's executive council, chaired Friday's hearing. He said the committee did not need to see the altered videotape; the testimony from Orange Lutheran and Rosamond was enough.
Coaches of Rosamond's three playoff opponents, who also attended Friday's hearing, said they suspected something was wrong with their videotapes but decided not to report Rosamond.
"I took it as a bad film," Serrano Coach Ray Maholchic said. "I did not think they would do anything on purpose. But . . . this is unbelievable, and in high school.
"The whole thing's a travesty. What's ridiculous is that is a good team and those kids deserve to play. This makes a mockery of anyone else being there."
Valley Christian Coach Mike Wunderley thought something was amiss but his staff had given a bad video to Rosamond. "The copy I thought I had dubbed over for them turned out to be blank," Wunderley said. "I didn't think he had done a disservice to me; I didn't know they had done this to other people."
Cathedral Coach Kevin Pearson said he did not speak up because "I'm a first-year coach and I didn't want the reputation of being a crybaby.
"Plus, when we discovered the tape was cut up, it would have taken too long to get another."
Pearson was contacted by Orange Lutheran Coach Jim Kunau on Wednesday to see if he could get a copy of their game video. When Kunau told him his game videotape had been edited, Pearson said he told him "it happened to us."
Kunau then contacted Crowley's office, Crowley said.
"It's neat we get to play again," Wunderley said. "When there's a breach of ethics like this, someone has to speak to the issue. This is the only way the section has of doing this.
"We'll start preparing today. But it's a strange situation, because no one knows how to approach it. We don't know if we should be congratulated or what."