A Hamburg Area High School football player could be facing charges after he allegedly ripped off an opponent’s helmet and then struck him with it during a game Friday night at Annville-Cleona High School.
The PIAA’s District 3 released a statement Tuesday morning stating that the matter is currently being handled by both schools and that District 3 has not scheduled a hearing on it.
“Although District 3 has the authority to request information from member schools on a number of matters, it has chosen not to ask either school to appear at this time,” the statement reads. “If either school requests a hearing on the matter, District 3 will make a determination at that time and alert the media and general public as to the status of the matter.
“The fact that District 3 has chosen not to take any steps at this time does not preclude action by the district at a future date if the committee feels such action is warranted,” the statement continued.
The incident occurred during an on-field scuffle in the third quarter of Hamburg High School’s 25-22 victory over Annville-Cleona at A-C’s stadium in South Annville Township. It was caught on video by a camera from WGAL TV-8.
South Annville police Chief Ben Sutcliffe confirmed Tuesday that his department has opened an investigation into the matter.
“At this time, we feel there is more than enough reason to open an investigation due to the information we have in the videos,” he said. “It’s going to be a long, drawn out, lengthy investigation. There’s a lot of people to interview.”
Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold said his office is aware of the incident and has spoken to the South Annville police department. However, he said county detectives are not participating in the investigation.
In the video, Hamburg senior quarterback/safety Joseph Cominsky can be seen ripping the helmet off Annville-Cleona offensive lineman Josh Hartman and twice swinging it at Hartman. With the second swing, Cominsky is seen striking Hartman on his head while Hartman was lying on his back.
Afterwards, Hartman lay on the ground for a few moments, then got up and walked toward his sideline holding his head. He received a laceration to his scalp and was eventually cleared to return to the game.
Cominsky was ejected from the game.
Referees also tossed Annville-Cleona senior running back Taylor Prentice for throwing several punches into a crowd of players after the helmet-swinging incident.
While scuffles between players during sporting events are nothing new, Sutcliffe said Cominsky may have crossed a line.
“That’s the key point,” he said. “It opened it up enough to do the investigation. And I think that’s everybody’s concern: Where do you draw the line?”
Sutcliffe said he and two other South Annville police officers were at the game, but none of them saw the incident. When officers attend games, they are there primarily to monitor spectators, he said.
“I was probably the closest officer to where it occurred, but I didn’t see it take place,” he said. “From my vantage point - I was at field level - I did not see what occurred.”
Annville-Cleona athletic director Tommy Long said Sutcliffe stopped by the school on Monday and informed the school that the police department is opening an investigation. He said he had no other information on the investigation.
“These kinds of situations, you hope you never see, whether it’s a football game, a basketball game or a hockey game,” he said. “They’re outside the realm of what the game should be and you hate seeing anything like that.”
Long said he does not think Hartman’s injury required additional medical care or attention.
“I know our trainer looked over him,” he said. “But he did go back into the game and play.”
Per PIAA rules, Cominsky and Prentice will serve automatic one-game suspensions for being ejected.
Long said Prentice could face additional punishment from the school.
“There’s no question he sits out the next game, but it’s a case-by-case basis depending on severity,” he said. “The school could step in and issue more punishment than the PIAA, we just can’t do less.”