AGOURA — Oak Park High administrators have removed the boys' soccer team from the playoffs because of a string of incidents this season that culminated Thursday when the team's captain spattered a referee with blood.
Oak Park Athletic Director Dick Billingsley said the Eagles "did not represent the school with sportsmanship and discipline on the field" and were informed Friday that fourth-place Carpinteria would receive the Tri-Valley League's third and final automatic Southern Section playoff berth. The postseason draw will be released Monday.
Oak Park's Aaron Benditson, a senior and one of the region's top midfielders, was ejected Thursday against visiting Bishop Diego after he used his hand to spatter a referee with blood from a cut on his face suffered in a collision with an opponent.
Benditson said the Eagles, who had three players ejected Wednesday at St. Bonaventure, were warned by school administrators Thursday morning that any further incidents would lead to Oak Park forfeiting its playoff berth.
"I think the reason they're not letting us go on is because of me," said Benditson, who said he needed 11 stitches to close the wound. "I understand what they're trying to show us. . . but stopping our season when we'd worked all season to get to the playoffs, I thought it was a bit harsh."
Benditson said he did not intentionally throw blood on the referee Thursday but Bishop Diego Coach Tim Vom Steeg saw it differently.
"It happened right in front of our bench," said Vom Steeg, who is also the Cardinals' athletic director. "[Benditson] had a handful of blood and he basically flung it at [the referee]. We had to stop the game for five minutes so the guy could go to the bathroom and clean himself up."
Billingsley declined to comment on specific reasons for the team being pulled from the playoffs. But Vom Steeg, who serves as the Tri-Valley League's athletic coordinator, said he was told by Oak Park officials that Benditson's ejection was the last in a line of increasingly severe transgressions.
In the Eagles' game Wednesday at St. Bonaventure, Erik Sesma, Dan Solis and Chip Warner were ejected for fighting, Benditson said.
Benditson said word passed through the team Friday that Coach Zoran Lomic had been fired. But Billingsley said he has not yet met with Lomic for a postseason evaluation. Lomic could not be reached for comment.
Oak Park has built a reputation for outbursts in the past two seasons. On Jan. 31, 1997, senior Russell Prior was removed from the team by school administrators for repeatedly cursing a referee.