Youth Football Brawl Could Lead to Felony Charges

A disputed call during a youth football game in Florida led to an eruption of violence involving more than a dozen coaches and 13- and 14-year-old players who attacked a referee; one individual even tackled the official. And it was all captured on video. (Warning: The video contains some foul language).

On Friday, Sarasota County sheriff's officials are expected to file felony charges against the instigators of the incident, which occurred last Saturday at Riverview High School in Ridge Wood Heights during a game between the Sarasota Gators and the North Port Huskies. The investigation has centered on four suspects who took part in the melee, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. In Florida, attacking a sports official is a felony.

The video, which appears to have been filmed by a spectator, shows that the aggressors were mainly coaches and players from the Gators. Huskies coach Mike Cody called the incident a "very disgraceful display of coaching and mentoring to young men and women," adding that it was the worst he has seen in 24 years of coaching. Several Huskies coaches are visible in the video trying to break up the fight, and Cody can be seen calling 911 on his cell phone.

A mother of one of the Huskies players told reporters Carrie Wells and Todd Ruger that the fight started five minutes before halftime over at least one disputed call. The Gators coaches then began throwing water bottles at the officials before things escalated, she said.

Derrick Timmons, a Sarasota Gators coach for a different age group, told the paper he was advised by the league's attorney not to speak about the incident. But he still had this to say: "I don't want nothing to get twisted, so I'm not going to say anything. We all know what happened. Whatever anybody from North Port tells you ain't true. That's all I have to say about that."

"The video speaks for itself," Sarasota County Sheriff's Col. Steve Burns said. "It was disturbing. I saw adults, entrusted in a mentoring position with the youth of our community, acting and behaving in a manner that is absolutely unacceptable."

The Sarasota County School District has banned the Gators from playing on its fields, and the Middle Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference has suspended the team and expelled four people (including children) identified as having participated in the fight.

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