By Phil Anastasia
West Deptford High School athletic director Jason Morrell blasted Haddonfield High School this morning in a letter to Colonial Conference officials.
Morrell decried Haddonfield's "dismissive" attitude in reaction to a social-media incident involving West Deptford football coach Clyde Folsom.
"My concern comes from the lack of integrity, lack of concern, lack of care and total dismissive stance that the Haddonfield High School adminstration has acted with throughout this process," Morrell said in a letter emailed to Colonial Conference officials and copied to members of the media on Monday morning.
In response, Haddonfield superintendent Dr. Richard Perry issued an unapologetic statement that said he "reviewed the tape" of the incident during the Dec. 7 South Jersey Group 2 championship game.
About 15 minutes later, Perry issued an updated statement with one addition sentence: "I also believe that is the responsibility of the West Deptford superintendent and his Board of Education to supervise the activity of their athletic staff."
West Deptford superintendent Kevin Kitchenman has not yet responded to a request for comment.
The firestorm has erupted after a Haddonfield football parent, identified by Morrell as Bill Murray, put a photo on Facebook of Folsom appearing to use an obscene gesture during the South Jersey Group 2 championship game at Rowan University, according to Morrell.
The photo was accompanied by a post that accused some West Deptford fans of using the same obscene gesture as well as foul language toward the Haddonfield team buses when they arrived at Rowan.
"Look at the leader. Disgrace!!" read the post, which since has been removed from Facebook.
The photo was a screen capture from the video service "Hudl," which is used by many football programs.
Players from both Haddonfield and West Deptford -- as well as many programs in South Jersey -- are able to access the team's "Hudl" account to watch game films and create highlight tapes for recruiting purposes.
Morrell said the clip was "paused and the frame was captured in a deliberate attempt to depict Coach Folsom in a demonstrative, disrespectful and demeaning posture."
Morrell said Haddonfield athletic director Lefty Banos, in a conversation with Morrell on Dec. 8, "made clear that in no way, shape or form did he believe the image of Coach Folsom was legitimate."
Banos has declined to comment.
Sterling athletic director Matt Sheehan, the president of the Colonial Conference, declined comment on Monday.
On the video, Folsom appears to be raising his right hand with one or two of his fingers extended after a kickff return midway in the second quarter that was followed by pushing and shoving by players from both teams on the West Deptford sideline.
Folsom's gesture is unclear. West Deptford's position is that the coach is using his fingers to tell his players to gather closer to him, while Haddonfield superintendent Perry's statement that he "reviewed the tape" can be interpreted as suggesting that he believes Folsom was making an obscene gesture.
The incident occurs several seconds after the Haddonfield coaches, who had raced across the field to break up the scuffle, had left the West Deptford sideline and returned to their sideline.
Haddonfield won the game 27-0. The teams are among the fiercest rivals in South Jersey football, playing every year in the Colonial Conference and often meeting in the Group 2 playoffs as well.
In his letter, Morrell said the photo was "falsified" and said the incident "damaged his (Folsom's) professional life, has impacted his personal life and never once did anyone from Haddonfield apologize, make a statement or even acknowledge that damage had been done."
Morrell said the incident underscored the importance of school officials dealing with the ramifications of social media.
"The traditional concept of 'rivalry' has taken a step down a very dangerous pathway," Morrell wrote.
In an interview on Friday, Morrell said he was concerned because Haddonfield officials allowed the incident to smear the reputation of Folsom.
Folsom is widely regarded as one of the top football coaches in South Jersey history. He has a career record of 229-69-5 in 23 seasons at West Deptford plus five at Bishop Eustace.
"At the very least, I expected the Haddonfield adminstration to step up and say that they do not condone this, that they had nothing to do with it and that they apologize that someone associated with their football program would do something like that," Morrell said Friday. "That hasn't happened and that's disappointing.
"My No. 1 concern is that they displayed a dismissive attitude.
"If somebody can negate 35 years of what this man has done in high school football and all the good he has done and somebody can negate that, then we've got major problems.
"It's an integrity deal, it's a class deal. How do you want to present yourself?
"My concern is where this leads us and not just as far as West Deptford and Haddonfield but as far as parents and people associated with these programs and what they can do with social media.
"Parents need to be cognizant of the fact that they can't just do whatever they want to do. We need to stand up and say we have expectations."
-- Contact Phil Anastasia at email@example.com