For the second time in as many weeks, the end of a key rivalry game was marred by a violent fight between two teams, with sanctions against both schools remaining a real possibility after an assistant coach of one school reported punched a star linebacker for his team's foe.
As reported by the Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Times, KTLA and other sources, tensions rose during the El Camino Real (Calif.) High football game against visiting Canoga Park (Calif.) High when the see-saw contest wound down to its conclusion. With the game seemingly ticketed for overtime, Canoga took a late lead on a touchdown within the final minute only to see the Conquistadors roll down the field in time to attempt to a game-winning field goal.
ECR's kicker missed his first attempt, but a personal injury penalty against Canoga on the play moved the kick up 15 yards, and the Conquistador converted the second attempt with no time remaining, giving ECR a victory that was equal parts thrilling to the Conquistadors and heartbreaking to the Hunters.
All of those sentiments could have been fine, if not for heated tension in the postgame handshake line. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, tension between the teams' players boiled over when Canoga Park football coach Ivan Moreno confronted ECR football coach Kevin Williams just before the teams met each other to shake hands.
"Ivan [Moreno] was very upset, and he started screaming at me, saying we didn't earn the win on the field," Williams told the Daily News. "That's something I took exception to because the truth is, the game should not have even been that close because the refs killed us, not them. If anyone was getting screwed by the officials, it was us."
If the argument had ended there, everything would have been brushed under the rug. Instead, they escalated, with several witnesses stepping forward to tell Williams they witnessed a Canoga Park assistant coach punch star linebacker Chance Smith in the face as the two teams began to walk through a traditional handshake line. Smith reportedly suffered a badly bloodied lip, but received treatment from a team trainer and avoided having to go to the hospital.
You can see grainy footage of the incident above or more clear action of the fight unfolding at KTLA's web site.
Smith and his parents are reportedly considering pressing charges against the as-yet unnamed assistant coach.
While Moreno did not directly defend his assistant under question for striking Smith, he claimed one of his own assistant coaches was struck in the face by an ECR player and blamed the rising tension that preceded the brawl on Williams.
"I was frustrated and upset about the way the game ended, but Kevin Williams is the one who got in my face," Moreno told the Daily News. "I remember one of my assistants saying to the El Camino Real guys, 'Hey, relax, don't push,' and the next thing I know, kids are flying around."
It remains to be seen if the California Interscholastic Federation will levy any financial or disciplinary sanctions against either school involved in the fight. In the meantime, both schools are reportedly still reviewing the incident and weighing potential penalties for those involved.
One can safely assume those officials are hoping their schools can avoid the kind of sanctions that befell two Pennsylvania schools which were involved in a similar incident last week.