Indians ready for first instant replay game

Pascack Valley, Old Tappan to pilot replay review program on Friday


Molly Heintze

Assistant Coaches JJ Moran (left) and Adam Preciado review game footage on an iPad from the sidelines. On Friday, iPads and HUDL Sideline technology will be used to provide instant replay reviews during the game.

Josh DeLuca, Sports Editor

Year after year, not much changes when it comes to New Jersey football.  Sure, the players and coaches come and go, but the core pillars of the game remain the same.  At the end of the day, football is football.

This year, however, a new dynamic has caused quite stir in the New Jersey football community.  Instant replay review is now a reality. “Challenging the ruling on the field” is no longer a phrase reserved for the collegiate and professional levels.

After much debate and deliberation, the NJSIAA, the governing body that regulates New Jersey high school sports, decided to implement instant replay review for football.  In doing so, New Jersey became the first state approved by the National Federation of High Schools to experiment with replay review.

As the instant replay program is still a pilot, the capability is only available in select, predetermined games.  Pascack Valley will get its first taste of this new frontier on Friday night, as the Indians travel to Old Tappan.

“It’s great to have the technology available to us,” PV coach Len Cusumano said. “Once it’s all set up and ready to go, I think we’ll be able to get a hold of it and handle it.”

Instant replay utilizes HUDL Sideline technology, which allows game footage to be instantly reviewed on iPads on the sidelines. Each participating school must possess the technology, which includes two camera angles – for a total of four – and multiple iPads. There is to be one camera on each side of the field and one behind each end zone.  At these designated “replay” games, pop-up tents serve as “Replay Centers” where officials will congregate to review footage in the event of a review.

As with many other schools in the area, the Pascack Valley football program already owned and utilized the HUDL technology, which they use to review game film during practice.  While schools do need to pay subscription fees to use HUDL, there are no additional fees to host replay games.

“We already have most of the infrastructure in place,” PV Athletic Director Shawn Buchanan said.

In the future, the program could be rolled out to all NJSIAA games.  Valley will participate in one other instant replay game in 2018, where it will serve as the host team against Ramapo on October 19.  As the host, Pascack Valley will be responsible for providing the infrastructure and logistical support on the day of the game. HUDL and NJSIAA will also provide assistance.

“There’s not an additional cost for us having an instant replay game,” Buchanan said.

Cusumano and his coaching staff know that having replay capability at their disposal will take some adjustment for everyone involved.

“The biggest thing is utilization of it during a game, because it’s something that a lot of high school coaches aren’t used to,” Cusumano said. “But I think we’ll get ahold of it fairly quick.”

The Indians already use iPads and the HUDL technology on the sidelines during games to review film and strategy. The only difference is that now the replay will have the potential to change calls on the field.

For now, the only plays subject to review are scoring plays and turnovers.  Teams will be given one challenge per half, and will be granted a second if the first is successful.  If the challenge is wrong, the team will lose a timeout. Even if a team is out of timeouts, teams will be given a “special challenge” with three minutes left in the game. Replay will not be allowed when games are in “running clock mode” – one team ahead by 35 points or more – or if a team is winning by 17 or more in the last two minutes.

Though Week 4 will be Pascack Valley’s first foray into the world on instant replay, other North Jersey teams have already seen it in action.  For the most part, it seems that the rollout has been fairly successful, as referees have been able to overturn incorrect calls.  Logistics have proven to be the biggest difficulty so far. For instance, one team neglected to fully charge up their iPad and it died in the fourth quarter.

Though Cusumano is excited to have the technology at his disposal, he knows that it is far from perfect.

“The biggest thing is just trusting the technology,” Cusumano said. “My biggest fear is not getting a play clip when you need it.

Friday night will likely be the first of many replay games for the Pascack Valley football program.  Though the NJSIAA has issued detailed guidelines, the first encounter will be a learning experience all involved on Indians’ sideline.

“It’s gonna be a work in progress for everybody,” Cusumano said.