Two high school football games, played last weekend on opposite sides of the country, both had the same disappointing outcome. Each ended prematurely after sideline-clearing brawls, and all four teams have forfeited games following the suspension of all or most of their players.
In Connecticut, post-play shoving during Saturday's game between North Branford and Burlington's Lewis Mills high schools led to major on-field altercation. Play was stopped with 11 minutes and 24 seconds remaining and North Branford leading, 42-7. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, following consultation with game officials, a football rules interpreter and the National Federation of State High School Associations, charged each team with a loss in the double forfeit. "The officials have the authority to take whatever measure they need to take control of the game," Paul Hoey, the CIAC's associate executive director, told the New Haven Register. "At the time, there were no eligible players remaining, so the game had to be called."
Additionally, all ejected players are required to miss their next game - meaning that only non-dressed members from the freshmen and junior varsity teams, or varsity players not dressed for last weekend's game, are eligible to play this weekend. The Hartford Courant reported Wednesday that officials were reviewing game film "to see if any players didn't go onto the field," according to Hoey. "If that can be determined, then they would be eligible to play." Lewis Mills has already forfeited its game Friday night, while the fate of North Branford was not known at the time of this writing.
For video footage of the brawl and how it started (as well as some revealing reactions from spectators), click here.
The previous night in San Rafael, Calif., players from San Rafael and Redwood high schools engaged in a melee near the sidelines late in the game. "I have no idea [how it started]" Redwood coach Jon Hirsch told the Marin Independent Journal. "It got out of hand so fast. ... It's very disappointing."
While San Rafael was awarded a 22-0 victory after officials called the game with 2:17 remaining, both teams will forfeit this weekend's games. As the Journal reported, a review of the fracas resulted in the entire Redwood varsity roster (with the exception of injured or absent players) being considered ejected from the game, with the same consequences for the majority of San Rafael's players. As in Connecticut, the penalty in California for being ejected includes a suspension for the following game, meaning neither school has enough players to compete in a varsity contest this weekend. San Rafael will suit up only JV players Friday night, jeopardizing the team's perfect 8-0 record, and Redwood will forfeit its Saturday game.
"It's an extremely unfortunate situation," San Rafael principal Kit Pappenheimer told Journal reporter Dave Curtis. "But in reviewing the tapes, it was clear that the only action that could be taken was to [eject and suspend] any players that were on the field. This was a heartbreaking decision. I can't tell you what a disappointment it is to have to do this, and I wish there was another way. But we're part of a league, and there are rules."