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by Mike Pavlichko

“Idiots.”

That’s who caused this whole thing.  And the Pilgrims.

But we’ll get to them later.

Most troublesome, of course, is the fact that two children and one adult who were hospitalized after a horrific shooting at Friday night’s Central Jersey Group 2 semifinal playoff game between Camden and Pleasantville.  And the prayers are in abundance for that 10-year-old clinging for his life.

But this isn’t the space to debate access to guns and gun violence.

This is the place to discuss that it’s those same “idiots” who also put the NJSIAA in an unenviable position, where they couldn’t possibly please everyone.

(By the way, those aren’t my words.  Those are the words of Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner, in a press release announcing the arrests of several suspects:  “Our community will not be held hostage by a few idiots intent on jeopardizing our safety and the safety of our children.”)

In any event, the NJSIAA has announced Pleasantville and Camden will finish the game this Wednesday, in a contest closed to the public, at a neutral site.

Cue the NJSIAA-bashing on social media.

But the fact of the matter is, they were in a no-win situation.

Certainly, the game should be completed.  NJSIAA Executive Director Larry White said, in a statement, “To be clear, the decision to complete the approximately 17 minutes remaining in this game was made by both schools.  It was based not on any desire for an athletic championship, but to provide closure and send a powerful message that acts of violence and those who perpetrate them will not win.  The outcome of this game will be decided where it should be – on the playing field.”

I think we can all agree we’re all for finishing the game, for a lot of different reasons.

But playing it on Wednesday has rankled a lot of people.   Because the winner has to play Cedar Creek on just a couple days’ rest.

Since we don’t cover Cedar Creek, I haven’t reached out for comment.  Maybe my colleague Nick Kosko of 97.3 ESPN in South Jersey – who was in the press box when the shots rang out, and stuck with his play-by-play call until it was over, then ducked under the press box counter with the lights out – or someone from the Atlantic City Press will ask those questions.  Was Cedar Creek consulted?

On the surface, it doesn’t seem fair for Cedar Creek, to only have two or three days to prepare for their sectional final.

But Cedar Creek has played both teams this season.  They got to see nearly three quarters of Friday’s game.  And really, the winner of Pleasantville-Camden will have even less time than Cedar Creek to get ready for the championship game.  All kinds of game film have been available from Hudl for a while now.

Why not push the final a week later?  Well, there’s the issue of Thanksgiving.  Pleasantville is at Ocean City on Turkey Day, and Camden has it’s cross-city rivalry game with Woodrow Wilson.  Both are big games.

Should they be asked to move them?

Maybe.  Maybe just this one time.  Or maybe the NJSIAA could have granted them a waiver so they can do like Easton (PA) does:  play Phillipsburg on Thanksgiving, then a playoff game two days later.

And if they went another week later, playing the final the week of December 6th, that wouldn’t be fair to whoever comes out of South Jersey Group 2, probably undefeated Hillside.  But the state couldn’t have its bowl game until the second week of December in that scenario.

And this is all assuming we don’t get a snowstorm between now and then.  Anyone remember last year?

I don’t envy the NJSIAA in this situation.  I’ve gotten on them for a lot, but this is one they couldn’t win.

People are even complaining about having the game at a neutral site, that Pleasantville earned a home game, and it should be there.  They say the fans of each school weren’t to blame, and they should be able to see it.

But God forbid something were to happen again, we’d hear how the NJSIAA blew that, too.  Kudos to the athletic association for erring on the side of caution.

Better to be alive and make an unpopular decision that to see someone possibly get hurt or killed, but hey, at least the fans got in!

Go and rip the NJSIAA for transfer rules, the Born Power Index and play-in games to right a wrong where the rules should have been followed as intended, even though they weren’t exactly to the letter.  We all know what should have happened with Allentown-Robbinsville.

But leave the NJSIAA alone on this one.  Please.

And let the kids play the game and be just what they are:  kids.