Johnson out of hospital as VHS awaits ruling

Published 11:25 pm Saturday, October 20, 2012

Vicksburg High’s football team could face fines, suspensions and probation following a bench-clearing brawl Friday night, but all that took a back seat to concern for head coach Tavares Johnson Sr., who collapsed trying to break up the melee.

The fight occurred during the fourth quarter of the Gators’ homecoming game against Murrah. The contest was called by the game officials with 11:22 remaining and Murrah leading 57-42.

Johnson was transported to River Region Medial Center Friday night after receiving medical treatment on the field by emergency response technicians.

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Family members said Johnson was conscious and speaking when he arrived at RRMC.

Johnson was released from the hospital Saturday, River Region spokesman Allen Karel said.

Johnson’s wife, Tasha, was with her husband along with their sons Trey and Tavares Jr. Tavares Johnson Jr. is a quarterback for Vicksburg’s football team, but is out for the season with an injury and did not play Friday night.

“He’s all right,” Johnson Jr. said. “He talked to us the whole time. He even asked me, ‘Did we win.’”

Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Swinford was visibly shaken by the entire incident.

“This has never happened to me, even in my years as an assistant principal, principal or as an administrator,” Swinford said. “I was able to see Coach Johnson with Tasha, Junior and the little brother. He was talking. Coach Johnson is one of the most unselfish persons I’ve ever known. All he was concerned with was his boys and make sure they were all right. The love people have for him is all here. That’s why so many are here.”

Several Vicksburg players, including Edward Davis and Terrell Smith, were happy to learn their coach was OK.

“He’s OK, that’s what matters,” Davis said.

Next for both Vicksburg and Murrah’s football teams is the aftermath of the fight. The Mississippi High School Activities Association has ordered an investigation into the incident.

“We have been informed of an incident in the Murrah-Vicksburg game.” MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said in a release Saturday. “We will conduct an investigation after we have received reports from each school. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

Swinford said the district will take the necessary steps to present its case to the MHSAA.

“First, we will self report this to the MSHAA,” Swinford said. “There is no doubt the penalties could be hard for us. There are videos available to us, and me and Lum Wright will look over our own video.”

Wright, the administrative assistant to the superintendent, oversees the school district’s athletics programs.

The MHSAA has a stated policy against players and assistant coaches leaving the bench to join in a fight, which both Vicksburg and Murrah did. The mandatory penalties include a $500 fine and loss of playoff eligibility.

Other possible penalties include fines and probation for both teams and suspensions for individual players. Probation would prohibit either team from participating in the playoffs, but they would be allowed to play regular-season games.

Each school could also be suspended from all interscholastic activity.

Murrah is in sixth place in Region 2-6A, one game behind a four-team tie for second. Murrah (5-4, 2-3 Region 2-6A) has two road games left in the regular season, this week at Jim Hill and Nov. 2 at Northwest Rankin.

Vicksburg (1-8, 0-5 Region 2-6A) was eliminated from playoff contention with Friday’s loss. It is scheduled to host Warren Central this week, then finishes the regular season at Clinton on Nov. 2.

If the MHSAA rules to suspend Vicksburg High, both games would be lost.

Ben Shelton and his fellow VHS assistant coaches watched a clip of the fight on a small camcorder Friday night at the hospital. What he saw was not encouraging.

“Our season could very well be over,” Shelton said.