Exciting games turned a bit ugly

Published 11:18 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

There were no punches thrown, but both teams left the field with a bit of a blackeye.

For two hours and 35 minutes here at Hendrix Stadium Friday night, the teams and coaches and fans from Picayune and Pearl River Central witnessed one of the best games ever played in one of the most outstanding atmospheres ever to take place in Pearl River County.

And then, over the next 20 minutes, it became a bit tarnished.

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After being dominated on both sides of the ball for most of the game, Picayune scored late to take a 21-20 lead, and then forced PRC to turn the ball over near mid-field with less than two minutes to play and the Blue Devils with no time outs left.

Picayune head coach Dodd Lee instructed his team to go into “victory” formation and kneel on the ball three straight times to run the clock out and take its 16th straight win in this county rivalry.

And, facing an emotional loss in a game in which it had mostly dominated, a Blue Devil  player decided to smash into the Picayune line on the final play.

Was it illegal…? No, not according to the the game officials, who after flagging PRC for 20 penalties in the game decided not to throw another and ran off the field.

Was it necessary…?

Again, no. And that’s when the shenanigans began.

Picayune’s sideline, feeling that the hit “cheap” and “unnecessary”, rushed the field as the final seconds ticked off and expressed their displeasure. Some insults were exchanged between several coaches and support staff and the situation kind of took on a surreal tone, as more folks became involved and cells began to develop on the field that could have resulted into violence.

It was not a brawl. Nor was it bench-clearing. The players and coaches traditionally come together at mid-field after the game to congratulate one another on a game well-played.

But that’s not what ended up happening, and there is no place for this type  of behavior in high school sports. I understand that emotions were running at an extremely high level, no doubt. But in a game that was a rematch of the Class 5A South State championship, neither team acted like champions after the game.

Lee said afterwards that “no matter what happens during or after a game, we should never react like we did and I apologize to the fans on both sides. It’s my responsibility and this will never happen again as long as I am the coach at Picayune.”

PRC head coach Eric Collins, who had his team in position to win one of the biggest games in the history of the Blue Devil program, also expressed regrets about the post game situation.

“I am very sad that that type of thing happened,” Collins said. “No matter what point of view you look at it from, I don’t think that represents either community very well. But I don’t think any players were at fault on either side. It was the action of a few adults that caused the situation to escalate.”

I will give MUCH credit to the law enforcement officials on hand, who for the most part took control of the dicey situation and got both teams back to their respective sides and kept the situation from escalating even more out of control.

And both Superintendents, Picayune’s Dean  Shaw and PRC’s Alan Lumpkin, both former basketball coaches that realize what can take place after an emotion stirring  rivalry game, thankfully were on the field and helped defuse the situation as well.

But the actions on the field in the waning moments, unfortunately, overshadowed an outstanding game.

And, just like last year, this pair of “friendly” rivals, as some like to call them, could meet again in the postseason. And perhaps those that consider it a “friendly” rivalry have been on the winning side every time over the past 17 years.

And now that the team that has had it’s tail kicked for so long is closing in on the tail-kicker…will it remain a friendly rivalry?

Unfortunately, There was nothing “friendly” that took place in the aftermath of this contest Friday night on either side.

And if they do face off again in two months…what might happen then….during, and after the game?

Curtis Rockwell is the Sports Editor of the Picayune Item.