I make light of this actually very serious issue because, as usual, the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) baffles the mind. As the whole state prepared for the Hammer of Justice to fall on the two participating schools, dacoach was chuckling the whole way to the Edisto Shag Festival. There are SO many different ways to approach ANYTHING that the SCHSL does nowadays, but let’s look back over just a few of our most memorable On-Field Conflicts.
Out of the dozens of fights I could choose from, I narrowed down my lists to some of the most noteworthy and popular. In Sept. of 2002, Northwestern and Marlboro County got into a doozy of a fight. Both teams pointed fingers, screamed accusations and handcuffs were used. As far as I can remember, both teams had suspensions handed out by the High School League and were banned from the playoffs. Appeal denied. In August of 2008, defending state champion Wilson High School got into a brawl on the last play of the season’s first game with a very talented Lake City team. Again, blame for everyone, handcuffs and suspensions galore. And again, the SCHSL banned both teams from the playoffs. Appeal denied.
Just one year later, in Sept. of 2009, Summerville and Stratford go to swinging, fighting, tumbling and cussing during the handshake. Cameras caught all of the widespread action as coaches, cops and fans rushed onto the field to stop (or start!) more of the drama. Punishment? Well, according to Papa Smurf McKissick, it was just a little disagreement that was settled quickly. A few suspensions, but no postseason ban. SCHSL didn’t want to upset The Man, The Myth, The Legend… and so they didn’t. Northwestern, Marlboro County, Wilson and Lake City watched in stunned amazement.
In October of 2014, Dreher and Camden rolled all over the place during the game, followed in 2016 by Wando and St. James. Curious what punishments they got? Some suspensions and – drumroll please – PRE-SEASON bans for the NEXT season. Again, no post-season bans. That brings us full circle to this Aug., 2017 tussle between Summerville (again?) and Spartanburg. As of now, there have been 8 players suspended from each team for a specific number of games and…. Uh, no. There is no "and”. There’s no post-season ban, no pre-season ban next year. So, let’s get this straight: in 2009, Summerville gets in a brawl and the post-season ban is rolled back and no longer used to address fights. Then in 2017, Summerville gets in a fight and the pre-season ban the following year is rolled back and no longer used. Evidently, it’s not McKissick, after all. It’s simply Summerville High School that the SCHSL bows down to.
On a more serious note, fights during a football game are usually avoidable. If the coaches, refs and teammates will take the time to head these things off before they gain momentum, there would hardly ever be brawls to write about or to discipline teams for. In all my years of high school football, I have NEVER seen a game where as the teams lined up for the opening kickoff, the players dropped their equipment and went to wailing on each other. (Hockey, anyone?) Football is an emotional sport, full of emotional Alphas on the field and the sidelines. But, there are plenty of people out there, as well, with enough since to know that fighting on a football field will not resolve the issues at hand. Talk with your play. Let your pads do your speaking. And when the dust settles, everyone will know who won. Even if the scoreboard doesn’t always have it right.