Confrontations between high school football players and their coaches is nothing new, particularly in the heat of a tense varsity game. Still, that notion was taken to a new level on Friday night, when an Erie (Pa.) East High senior punched one of his assistant coaches during a game, leading to his arrest and subsequent felony charge of aggravated assault.
According to the Associated Press and Erie Times-News, 18-year-old East running back and linebacker Gary Simpson remains in prison, where he has been since Saturday after he was arrested during East's game against Strong Vincent (Pa.) High. The senior punched assistant coach Michael Cutter, who is also a math teacher at the school, as Simpson walked off the field during a frustrating 34-12 East loss. You can see the East team entering its home stadium in the photo above.
The Times-News reported that Simpson was taken away from the game in handcuffs and immediately held on a $25,000 bond for his actions. That bond has yet to be posted, and the high school senior remains in Erie County Prison facing the aforementioned felony charge of aggravated assault and a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.
According to a police affidavit in the case, law officials were first made aware of the altercation when they heard a loud crack while walking near the sideline on a security detail. Frighteningly, the sound was so loud that the police officers originally assumed that a player had been tackled into the bleachers.
Instead, the officers found Simpson walking off the field while screaming and yelling obscenities. The rest, as taken from the affidavit, paints a troubling scene of a drastic misunderstanding between coach and player.
Simpson told [policeman Thomas] Lenox that he punched Cutter because Cutter threatened to "punch me into the dirt," according to the affidavit.
Cutter told police that he approached Simpson, who appeared upset about the game, as Simpson walked off the field. As Simpson walked away from Cutter as Cutter tried to coach him, Cutter said he put his hand on Simpson's shoulder pads to calm him down and talk to him. Simpson then turned around to Cutter and swung at him, but missed, Lenox wrote in the affidavit.
Cutter told police that he told Simpson that he would "put you in the dirt if you ever swing at me." Simpson then turned around and punched Cutter in the face, according to the affidavit.
While the injuries sustained by Cutter were not too severe, the Times-News reported that he suffered significant swelling and bruising to his upper left eye, where he was struck by Simpson.
At this point, the Erie school district is withholding any decision on how to discipline Simpson, but Erie schools Superintendent Jay Badams offered an ominous note about the promising player's future.
"We'll wait until the authorities wrap up their investigation before making a decision," Badams told the Times-News. "If we determine the student poses a risk to staff and other students, he won't be allowed to return to school."
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