A high school football playoff game in South Texas devolved into a nasty brawl that forced police to pepper spray both teams, with Ozen (Texas) High and La Marque (Texas) High players and coaches forced to douse one another's eyes with water following La Marque's 18-6 victory in Baytown, Texas.
"I'm embarrassed for our community, I'm embarrassed for our family and I'm embarrassed for our actions," La Marque football coach Mike Jackson told the Galveston Daily News. "We don't retaliate in that situation."
According to the Beaumont Enterprise, the fight started in the closing moments of the teams' playoff matchup at the neutral site of Stallworth Stadium, which is located in Baytown, Texas. With La Marque nursing its 18-6 lead, an unidentified La Marque player allegedly punched Ozen defensive back Kourtney Williams.
That heated incident went without retaliation and the game went forward until its conclusion, when the teams walked through the postgame handshake line and ugly taunts between the two sides kicked off. After Ozen receiver Deandre Burrell was pushed in the back, his teammates pushed back, and soon, members of both teams were in the middle of a wild melee.
It didn't take long for Baytown police officers on the scene to intervene, spraying both teams with pepper spray in an attempt to break up the violence. With both squads nursing their injuries moments later, the Enterprise reported that one officer shouted to the crowd, "It was teenagers acting like thugs on both sides. We had to do it."
While neither team could exit the brawl with much dignity, the postgame incident could still have ramifications for La Marque's postseason run. University Interscholastic League director Mark Cousins, the top administrative official for the state's extracurricular governing body, told the Enterprise that his organization would investigate the incident and could penalize both schools for their roles in the brawl.
"Ultimately, we'll look at the incident report from officials as well as reports from the two schools involved and take appropriate action once all of that information is available and taken under consideration," Cousins said. "It would be premature at this point to comment on any potential actions until all of the information is received."
Regardless of what Cousins and UIL eventually decide to do, one thing is certain: Neither team is proud of the way its most significant game of the season to date came to an end.
"I don't condone what happened at the end of the game because that's not what our program is about, whether it's incited or not," Ozen football coach Jeff Nelson told the Enterprise. "A part of growing up and becoming men is knowing when to say when and not getting drawn into a situation.
"As they grow into manhood and mature they've got to be able to not be incited by words because words don't hurt you. They put themselves in a bad situation. I saw guys from La Marque swinging helmets, and somebody could get hit in the head. You don't start it, but you end up in the hospital behind words."