Quarterback charged for early season on-field helmet incident

Just when it appeared that the saga of Hamburg Area High School senior Joey Cominsky, who gained national notoriety after striking an Annville-Cleona football player with the latter’s helmet, had a hushed ending, the story broke again in late November.

On Nov. 20, South Annville Township police in Lebanon County filed charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct against Cominsky as the result of the on-field incident during the Sept. 6 game between Hamburg and Annville-Cleona.

But the statement issued by South Annville police initially raised as many questions as it answered. Because any defendants in this case are minors, the police issued no further details than the fact that charges were filed.

Police would not comment on how many players were charged or how the charges were separated. As a result, no one immediately knew whether Cominsky, who struck Annville-Cleona’s Josh Hartman with Hartman’s own helmet in the middle of the on-field fight, was charged or whether other players were involved.

However, Cominsky’s attorney acknowledged that Cominsky had been charged. The Lebanon County district attorney’s office has not commented on how the matter will be adjudicated.

The now famous video of the incident, shot by WGAL-TV in Lancaster, shows Cominsky tearing off Hartman’s helmet and striking the Annville-Cleona player on the head. The video resulted in millions of views nationally and worldwide on some of the Internet’s leading websites, such as The Huffington Post, deadspin.com, CNN.com and many others.

South Annville Township police said the day after the game it would conduct an investigation, one that took nearly two months to complete. In the meantime, Cominsky, who appeared to react to Hartman throwing punches at a Hamburg player, served a two-game suspension, but completed the 2013 season, including a District 3 Class AA playoff loss to Bermudian Springs.

The charges were filed 12 days after Hamburg’s final game of the season.

The PIAA football playoffs got serious last weekend with the quarterfinal round in all four classes, and a lot of new schools populated the brackets, especially in Class AA and Class A.

Ten schools made their initial appearances in this year’s PIAA football championships, including three each in the two smallest classes.

In Class AA, District 3 champion Berks Catholic, District 4 champion Troy and District 11 champion Catasauqua have reached states for the first time. So have District 5 champion Tussey Mountain, District 7 champion Pittsburgh North Catholic and District 10 champion Lakeview.

Two teams each in Class AAAA and Class AAA also made the field: District 12 champion St. Joseph’s Prep and District 6 champion Mifflin County in AAAA along with District 1 champion Academy Park and District 4 champion Jersey Shore.

Mifflin County and Jersey Shore were eliminated in first-round games.

Berks Catholic and Mifflin County also carry asterisks – Both schools had pre-merger predecessors reach states: Reading Holy Name and Indian Valley, which preceded Berks Catholic and Mifflin County, respectively, made PIAA championship appearances.

The impact of so many new teams in the small-school division is that one team in both Class AA and Class A will be a first-time finalist. In Class AA, neither Troy, Berks Catholic, District 12 champion Imhotep Charter and Catasauqua, all grouped in the eastern bracket, have made a PIAA final. Ditto in Class A, where western bracket teams Lakeview, District 9 champion Clarion, North Catholic and Tussey Mountain are finals-free.

Just the opposite is likely to occur in the big-school classes. Among the eight Class AAAA quarterfinalists, only two teams – McDowell and St. Joseph’s Prep – never reached the finals. In fact, Pittsburgh Central Catholic, Cumberland Valley, Parkland, Neshaminy and Lansdale North Penn all have at least one PIAA title. Lower Dauphin reached the 1995 Class AAAA championship but lost to Penn Hills.

Class AAA is “Erie-ly” similar. Defending champion Erie Cathedral Prep headlined a quarterfinal group packed with former state champions: Harrisburg Bishop McDevitt, Manheim Central, West Allegheny, Archbishop Wood and Berwick.

Only Clearfield and Academy Park have been shut out of finals.

Berwick has a chance to win its seventh PIAA title, breaking its current tie with Southern Columbia at six for the most PIAA football championships. The Bulldogs dominated Class AAA in the first decade of the state playoffs, winning those six titles between 1988, the first year for state football playoffs, and 1997.

But Berwick, which compiled a 17-3 record during its championship sojourn, has only appeared sporadically in the state playoffs and has just a 3-5 record in the last 16 years.

Notes: District 3 schools Penn Manor (Millersville) and Cedar Cliff (Camp Hill) are on track to open the 2014 football season in Dublin, Ireland. They are among 12 teams from the United States invited to play in the Croke Park Classic. It is the same organization and series of games that includes the Penn State-Central Florida game next year. … Jim Dooley, a highly popular basketball coach whose teams won 702 games at four PIAA schools, died Oct. 31 at age 69. Dooley died of complications from aplastic anemia, a rare disease that keeps the body from producing red and white blood cells and platelets. Dooley coached at Shippensburg, Gettysburg, Cumberland Valley and Delone Catholic during his lengthy career. He led Delone Catholic to a district championship just last year.