The thud was audible. The airborne helmet was visible.
This wasn’t an ordinary football play Friday night in Pearl City. It was a jarring, first-quarter hit by 180-pound Kaiser linebacker Tommy Fisher on 130-pound Pearl City wide receiver Jacy Crail, and Crail hit the ground while his helmet rolled around.
Fisher’s hit appeared to be clean without an intent to injure, but the Cougars were flagged 15 yards for what was described as illegal contact. Fisher was ejected and will miss the Cougars’ regular-season finale against Kalaheo next week.
In all levels of football, more attention is being paid to players’ heads due to the risk of concussion. The use of the helmet to initiate contact is a no-no, and that is being enforced.
“I don’t think he did anything illegal,” Cougars coach Rich Miano said. “But I understand the officials want to err on the side of caution. But I think (former UH head coach) Dick Tomey made a good point. He thinks this type of thing, when a player is ejected, should be reviewed after the game to see if it merits the player missing the following game.”
After the game, Fisher said that when he went to make the tackle, the front of his helmet hit the top part of Crail’s chest.
It didn’t appear that Fisher lowered his head in order to spear Crail, which would have signified an intent to use the helmet as a weapon. Miano thought Fisher’s helmet hit the bottom of Crail’s facemask, serving to pop the helmet off.
The play happened so fast, and the officials likely made the call in the name of player safety, judging that the helmet was used to make the tackle, intentional or not.
Pearl City coach Robin Kami said Crail did not suffer a concussion and his head was not hurt on the play, but that he injured his shoulder and could miss time.
Kaiser’s 31-6 win in Pearl City clinched the OIA White regular-season title and eliminated the Chargers’ hopes at a share of the championship.
The Cougars were in a situation they weren’t used to at halftime, leading only 10-6, but switched from a power game to a passing attack in the second half, and it worked.
Pearl City’s five game-winning streak was stopped. Kaiser (7-1, 7-0 OIA White) has seven wins in a row.
The two teams could play again in the playoffs. Second place is still up for grabs among Radford (6-1 OIA White), Kalani (5-2) and Pearl City (5-2).
The Chargers have a big game at Radford next Friday, and Kami hopes to see his team perform like it did against Kaiser in the first half.
Pearl City’s game plan and the players’ resolve gave the Cougars fits.
“They came out and played us with confidence and adrenaline,” Miano said.