Consequences abound for moment of poor judgement

Published 11:14 am Thursday, October 25, 2012

In Friday’s tightly contested game between Vicksburg and Murrah, with emotions running high, one regrettable action started a chain of events that will echo long after the memory fades.

The ramifications are short-term and long-term after the Mississippi High School Activities Association handed down its penalties Tuesday.

The atrocious, inexcusable brawl resulted in numerous suspensions of players from both schools, probation and $500 fines. Most of the Gators’ 57-man roster was suspended, costing Vicksburg its last two games against Warren Central Friday and at Clinton next week.

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MHSAA executive director Don Hinton and his staff were spot-on with the penalties. The MHSAA rules are ironclad in their simplicity. Don’t leave the bench area. Don’t fight. Obey the instructions of the officials. Both teams broke the rules and have paid the price.

The two teams will carry reputations into the distant future that will be extremely hard to shake. As coaches love to say, the tape doesn’t lie. And the tape in this case is damning.

Vicksburg’s players emptied out of the team area near the 25-yard line into the fracas around the 10 after a Murrah player took a couple of swings at a Vicksburg player following an onside kick. Literally, 10 or 15 yards separated much of Vicksburg’s team from eligibility.

It was dangerous chaos and Vicksburg coach Tavares Johnson Sr. was struck by a helmet wielded by a Vicksburg player, as an enhanced video available on clearly shows.

There was no excuse for it. None. One of the reasons coaches talk about discipline in football is that the sport is one of violent collisions and big-time emotions. The only things that keep a football game from turning into a riot is the discipline of the players — a value instilled in them by the coaching staff — and the work of the officials hitting guilty parties with 15-yard flags and ejections to head off danger at the pass. Neither discipline nor the officials were able to prevent an easily avoidable culmination of a night of chippiness.

There was collateral damage as well. Vicksburg’s band and cheerleaders were innocent of any blame, yet they won’t get to enjoy another Friday night under the lights unless they buy a ticket elsewhere. Warren Central’s players didn’t get a chance to end their five-game losing streak to Vicksburg on the field and instead get an extra, unwanted bye week.

With the Vicksburg Warren School District losing a home game, plus having to write a $2,500 check to Clinton for the forfeit, the mistake’s financial toll is a big one.

It’s hard to find any positives, except that no one other than Coach Johnson was hurt and the wheels of justice at the MHSAA turned quickly.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at