August 24, 2010
Nick Marshall is a talented fellow. He's 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, and has wheels and an accurate arm. He is the quarterback for defending Georgia state champion Wilcox County High School, and has committed to play at the University of Georgia.
Still, like all high school athletes, he's a far cry from a professional, and he's never done anything on the field to invite serious derision. Try telling that to Fitzgerald High School fans, who cheered when the future Bulldog went down with an ankle injury during a scrimmage last week. The incident came to light after an official report from Wilcox High's principal, Chad Davis, was dug up with some impressive FOI sleuthing by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Here's what Davis said in an official statement to the Georgia High School Athletic Association:
"When our quarterback, Nick Marshall, was tackled on one play, his ankle was twisted by one of the Fitzgerald's players. Many of the Fitzgerald fans cheered because Nick had been injured. There was a good deal of trash talk between the two teams."
That's just the start of what turned out to be a pretty ugly day on a Peach State practice field, which culminated in a brawl between the two teams that included Fitzgerald head coach Robby Pruitt being hit with a helmet.
Here's Fitzgerald's principal, Randy Garrett, breaking down the brawl in his statement to the GHSA:
"Some FHS coaches were involved in separating opposing players. In doing so, two of them were struck by Wilcox County players. One, Coach Pruitt was struck with a helmet in the back.
An FHS player reported that he had his helmet ripped off and fell to the ground where another Wilcox player kicked and stomped on him. Another Wilcox player circled the crowd sucker punching anyone he could and then retreating. He did this at least twice."
Not surprisingly, Davis was laying the blame for the scuffle firmly on Fitzgerald's plate:
"We were told by our players that a Fitzgerald player hit one of our players in the [groin] area. Something set off a fight between both teams."
Of course, it's worth noting that multiple Fitzgerald fans in the comments section of the AJC blog post claim that fans only cheered after Marshall got back up, but given the general atmosphere of the game -- you know, it ended in a brawl and all -- and the fact that Wilcox proffered up an official complaint about it, it seems a bit hard to believe that no one was cheering the injury. What may be more amazing is that Pruitt seems to be fine, and that the schools were fined a combined $500 for the fracas by the GHSA. Seems a bit light, even for a public school; $250 per school won't even pay for four of the new body-temperature monitoring helmets that schools are experimenting with to ward off heat stroke.
And maybe something should be done to punish the fans. Doesn't that seem like an oversight? Maybe a game or two played to an empty stadium?