The 100th meeting between Longview and Marshall high schools was always going to get attention because of the rivalry's rich tradition in East Texas. By game's end Friday night, the season-opening faceoff earned its spotlight for the wrong reason: a brutal on-field brawl that included nearly two minutes of non-stop fighting between the teams.
As seen on KTBS News in Shreveport, La., the nearest city to Marshall and Longview (with thanks to a tip from reader Shane Bacon), and detailed in the Marshall News Messenger, the longstanding rivalry between the East Texas schools devolved into a full-on street fight with about eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. The brawl included everything you could imagine: Sucker punches, coaches knocked over while trying to intervene, blindside hits when the fight seemed over, some 10 officers on the field trailing police tape and, eventually, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called on literally every player from both teams.
Both head coaches later weighed in on the fight with the Marshall News Messenger, reflecting a sense of regret but not necessarily any surprise that the brawl happened.
"When you have 16-, 17-year-old kids out there, we have to remember that sometimes," Marshall head coach Thedrick Harris said. "Sometimes tempers will flare and sometimes thing will happen. It's just unfortunate and it cost us a ball game."
"These kids are going to get after it and they're going to talk to one another," said Longview head coach John King. "I just hope nothing else ever comes of it. It got out of hand. It's a shame that it happened."
"The thing that upset me was we'd break up one (fight), and another one would turn," said King [...] "You can't portray it (as) just one team. It's both teams involved in that."
The fighting spread beyond players, too. At one point, an off-duty police deputy from Harrison County (which includes Marshall) got in a heated on-field argument with a deputy from Gregg County (which is home to Longview). The two officers nearly came to blows themselves before calm was eventually restored.
Faced with sorting out discipline for the fight, the referee handed out four ejections -- Longview players Bryce French and Jensen Jackson were sent off with Cameron Jones and LaKeithan Barkins of Longview -- in addition to the universal unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on both teams. Longview player D'Marjai Devine later picked up another personal-foul penalty, which ended his night because of the earlier unsportsmanlike conduct calls.
There has been no official disciplinary action against players or coaches for the fight from UIL, the governing body for Texas high school sports, but King told the Longview News-Journal that Longview players involved in the brawl will spend significant practice time running penalty laps and would lose playing time in the team's game against John Tyler High School this week.
Longview eventually pulled away to earn a 31-9 win thanks to three rushing touchdowns after the brawl. But given the fight that preceded the final whistle, it seems likely that the result isn't what fans will remember from the 100th meeting between the schools.
- the Marshall News Messenger