Let’s take a second look

Instant replay comes to Pascack Valley for the first time


Molly Heintze

The referees review the play at the replay booth with PV assistant Coach JJ Moran, while defense coordinator Adam Preciado shows the play to Athletic Director Shawn Buchanan.

By Josh DeLuca and Noah Schwartz

As the first half ticked down, Pascack Valley quarterback Stephen Begen lofted a pass into the corner of the end zone, looking for receiver Andrew Martinez. Martinez came down with the pass, but to the dismay of the Valley sideline, the referee signaled that he was out-of-bounds. In most games, the Indians wouldn’t be able to dispute the call, and play would have continued.

However, Friday night’s home game against Ramapo was not a normal game.

At the urging of his bench, Pascack Valley head coach Len Cusumano immediately signaled for a timeout and indicated that he would like the referees to take a closer look. The head referee signaled the stoppage in play, and jogged behind the PV sideline, where he and his crew rewatched the play on two iPads.

After a short delay in the action, the group of referees ran away from their small booth, and signaled a touchdown for PV.  The Pascack Valley sideline and crowd erupted in cheers. Thanks to the footwork of Martinez and some new technology, they were now an extra point away from tying the score against Ramapo, the No. 5 team in the state.

“I wanted to watch the tape too just to see what the call was,” Martinez said. “When I saw [the officials] come out with their hands up, I was very excited.”

Josh DeLuca

After the touchdown catch by Martinez, PV’s fourth quarter score by wide receiver Jake DeMilia was also confirmed by instant replay.

“[The instant replay] definitely helped us out, obviously. Tremendous tool. It was pretty cool that replay was able to help us, ” Cusumano said after the Indians’ 35-20 loss at home against Ramapo on Friday night.

Though the whole process took just two minutes, it was months in the making.

After the NJSIAA approved a pilot program early this year, the Pascack Valley Athletic Department got to work to make sure that they would be up to speed.  Since Pascack Valley already owned all necessary HUDL Sidelines technology, they offered to host one of the trial games. That game was Friday night against Ramapo.

Prior to kickoff, a folding table was placed on the Valley sideline and was surrounded by a cover, to make the area a bit more private.

“The state just requires that the officials have a section away from benches. They have a table and some kind of a shelter, away from the fans,” Pascack Valley Athletic Director Shawn Buchanan said. “That’s our set up. It’s rudimentary, but it does the job.”

On the tables were the two iPads, one from each team, for the officials to look at during a review. The referees are able to view two different angles during a review, and can alter the speed or distance of the film if necessary.

“We have two angles, one from the side and one from the endzone,” said Jim Conte, the lead official from PV’s game against Ramapo. “[We] can slow it down, slow motion, and then zoom it in too.”

PV assistant coach JJ Moran has become the Indians’ instant replay “guru,” spending a lot of time learning the intricacies of the technology to make the reviews go as smoothly as possible. Valley uses the HUDL technology not only for instant-replay review purposes, but also to record game footage that can be utilized during the game and during film sessions.

“[I learned it] just this year from playing around with it. [Mr. Anthony] Judilla and I have spent a lot of time going back and forth testing different things out,” Moran said. “And now we have Mr. [Michael] Sherman on board, so he’s been helping a lot too with his cameras.”

Noah Schwartz

On game day, Judilla, a PV science teacher, sits in the press box, where he clicks the record button on a team-owned iPad. He records each play, and then categorizes the footage as either offense, defense, or special teams. The videos can then be viewed by the referees in the event of a review and by the coaching staff during and after the game.

Josh DeLuca

As the hosts of the instant replay game, the Indians’ enlisted the help of Sherman, the PV videography teacher, to operate their sideline camera. His job was to pan the camera down the sideline to get a clear shot of each snap.

“The equipment worked perfectly fine. It’s really a credit to our football staff and how they have it set up and organized,” Buchanan said following the review. “Mr. Moran does a tremendous job working with our cameras for every game, as well as Mr. Judilla and Mr. Sherman. All three do a tremendous job for us.”

As for the NJSIAA challenge rules, each team gets two challenges per half, for a total of four. Teams only lose a timeout for a challenge it got wrong; if a team gets a challenge right, as Cusumano did during Martinez’s touchdown, then the timeout is kept. In the final two minutes of a game, when a team has no timeouts left to use, a team is allowed an extra challenge.

While the use of replay appeared to work quite well on Friday night, the future of the program remains to be seen. After the season, the NJSIAA will assess the success of their pilot program and will determine how, if at all, instant replay will be utilized in the future.

“If they put additional expenses on it, that’s something we’d have to look at,” Buchanan said regarding Pascack Valley’s future participation in instant replay. “The current set up it is doable for us, because we already have the equipment.”

This story was originally published on The Smoke Signal on October 22, 2018.