The association that governs youth football in the Panhandle has suspended every team in Crestview for one week after two parents complained about a safety concern.
The suspension affects more than 250 Crestview Area Youth Association athletes ranging from 5 to 12 years old.
The decision was made Wednesday night during an emergency meeting of the Panhandle Youth Football Association’s board.
“We had the CAYA program slander a league in which we all play to justify a loss,” PYFA President Cornell Tinner posted on Facebook after the meeting. “This is a case where the DRAMA outweighs the COMPLAINT; and the CONCERN outweighs the FUN.”
Three players on a Crestview team were injured during the Aug. 26 game in question. Two suffered concussions and the third has a badly sprained arm. All three were injured during plays involving a Niceville player who failed the initial weigh-in that would have prevented him from running the ball.
In the 9-10 division of PYFA, players weighing more than 125 pounds are prevented from running the ball or tackling. The bylaws require each player to be weighed pre-game once, and only once, to make determinations.
Ryan Hardy and John Contri, both of whom coach the injured boys, watched one of Niceville’s players weigh three times, finally stripping down to his underwear to make weight.
"He was in street clothes the entire time," Hardy said earlier this week. "He never had any gear on whatsoever. I weighed all my kids fully dressed, shoulder pads and everything."
After the game, Hardy’s wife, Miriam, posted her concerns on social media, and she and another parent emailed Tinner.
When Tinner spoke to the Daily News, he said the boy had weighed more than once and that he was over the weight on his first try. But, he said, the PYFA board member who OK’d the boy to handle the ball “knew the kid was under the weight.”
He added that they also “knew what an (expletive) the (Crestview) coach was" and that Crestview players didn't "know how to lose."
Tinner told the Daily News that he didn't believe the two boys had concussions.
After the emergency board meeting, Tinner gave CAYA “exactly 72 hours” to remove Miriam's post.
“The PFA is sure all of the people of Crestview DO NOT share the same views of the slander, so we came up with the ultimate challenge,” Tinner wrote, adding that they demand CAYA “produce another president or area rep.”
The current CAYA president, Terry Jackson, said he felt the ruling was unjust because the league can’t control parents.
He said they can post whatever they want or email anyone they want to share their concerns. He also said that he understands that they were particularly passionate about this issue because it involves the safety of children.
Jackson said his understanding of the weigh-in process was that once you step on the scale, that’s it.
“To us, it gets kind of dangerous if you let somebody strip down, especially where they’re a runner and they can get up some steam,” he said. But, he added, they have been put under a “gag order” and if they slander the association, they could get expelled from the league.
“We’re trying to save the season for 250 kids who can be affected,” he said.
None of the injured boys was cleared to play this weekend. Contri, whose 9-year-old son suffered a concussion, said he doesn't care if the team wins or loses, as long as the kids are safe.
"I can take a loss," he said. "It's about protecting our kids."
Jeff Skaife, one of the officials who worked the contentious game, called it a "hot mess."
He said that he'd been made aware that one of the Niceville players was a "little bit larger" and that he made it a point to keep an eye on that player to make sure his hits were legal. He said he had to call back two of Crestview's touchdowns, and through it all the Crestview coach was "awesome."
"What I saw was (the Niceville player) was being gang tackled pretty much," he sad. "The ones that were hurt were on the bottom of the pile. There were little small guys trying to bring him down.
"He's a heck of an athlete," he said.
Videos below show the plays in which the kids got injured: