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H.S. Football Coach Accused of Savage Behavior

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - The head coach of a high school football power instructed his team to injure opponents and abused his own players, six former students and two parents claim in court.

Thomas Corcoran III et al. accuse head coach Richard Ward of putting "winning at any cost" ahead of the well-being of students. He and his teammates want Corcoran removed from his job.

They sued Corcoran, the Marlboro Central School District, and its Superintendent Ray Castellani, in Federal Court.

Ward was hired as head football coach of the Marlboro Iron Dukes before the 2010 season and has enjoyed immense success on the field. But the students say it was at a cost that shocks the conscience.

"Starting with his first season and continuing through the 2012 season, defendant Ward instructed his players to intentionally and improperly injure identified opposing players," the complaint states.

It adds: "Ward instructed his players to twist and break fingers and target the knees of opposing players with the purpose of injuring them."

Four plaintiff-players say they heard Ward instruct the team "to injure Kariff Laboy of New Paltz and Josh Riley of Spackenkill, two standout opponents."

"Before the 2011 game against New Paltz, Ward told his team that he wanted the opposing team to 'go out in body bags,'" the complaint states.

Ward forced players he disliked to run laps for as much as three hours without a break, and forced players to play through serious injuries, the players say.

Plaintiff Dylan West claims that the coach "killed the game of football" for him.

The players claim the coach established a tone and pattern of being "far less concerned about the well-being of student-athletes, whether on his team or another, than with winning at any cost."

The Iron Dukes are 40-5 in four seasons under Ward and have won three Section 9 Class B championships.

The players claim Ward violently grabbed a teammate's face mask and jerked his head while cursing at him. That player quit the team.

Ward used a racial epitaph when referring to one of his black players, the complaint states. After seeking out that player's mother, so she could sign off on her son playing despite a concussion, Ward mocked her accent in front of his team and said, "I will run that nigger into the ground," according to the lawsuit.

Superintendent Castellani is accused of ignoring numerous reports of abuse when re-appointing Ward as head football coach for the 2013 season.

The plaintiffs - Thomas Corcoran III, Alfred & Kerstin D. Votta, suing on behalf of their minor sons, R.V. and J.V., West, Dominic Santora and Jimmy Farrett - seek compensatory and punitive damages and want Ward removed as head coach.

They are represented by Michael Sussman, with Sussman & Watkins, in Goshen, N.Y.

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