Football Game Fight Brings Stiff Penalties
By Tom Embrey
The Pinecrest and Union Pines football teams have been barred from the state playoffs this season as a result of a fight during the Battle of the Pines game last Friday.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) issued its ruling Thursday, according to a news release from the Moore County school system.
Each school was fined for players leaving the sidelines during a fight, and both football programs have been placed on probation by the NCHSAA, which is in keeping with the association's practice.
The Moore County school system has taken additional disciplinary action, according to a news release.
"The altercation between teams that occurred in last Friday's game between Pinecrest and Union Pines is both unfortunate and regrettable," Superintendent Susan Purser said.
Purser said that the schools have taken "full responsibility" for the fight and accept the consequences for their actions.
"We realize that the consequences of this incident impact not only the teams involved and the schools, it impacts our entire school district and community," she said. "Our charge is to lead and model appropriate behavior in all situations, and Friday evening's incident is not indicative of the conduct we expect or what we hope to accomplish through our athletic programs.
"However, it is essential that we learn from such situations and see them as opportunities to grow and do better in the future."
The NCHSAA ruling came after it reviewed reports from game officials and both schools as well as a video of the incident that was taken by a fan.
In conjunction with the NCHSAA, each school was required to conduct its own investigation into the incident. As a result of those investigations, additional players have been disciplined by both schools.
The school did not elaborate on those disciplinary actions.
NCHSAA Commissioner Davis Whitfield expressed his appreciation to the schools for their cooperation in conducting thorough investigations.
"To date, both teams have completed or are in the process of completing the STAR Sportsmanship program, and both schools have taken several additional steps, including their own suspensions, and the NCHSAA supports those additional actions," he said.
The ruling and subsequent disciplinary action stems from an incident during the second quarter of the game that resulted in officials ejecting three players from each team for fighting.
NCHSAA rules state, "If a situation occurs where three or more players on one team are ejected during one fighting incident, those three individual ejections will cause the team to lose its playoff privileges."
The incident, which delayed the game for more than 20 minutes, happened after a kickoff by the Patriots following a touchdown and two-point conversion that gave them a 49-7 lead with with 4:25 left in the half.
"Folks need to know that we are reaching for a high standard and that our reaction (to the incident) was not negative, but rather, 'What do we do to get better?'" Purser said. "It's about what do we learn, not consequences."
NCHSAA rules dictate that any team accumulating six or more ejections during a season or three or more ejections for fighting will be barred from participating in the playoffs.
Players ejected for fighting must miss the next two games. All other ejections result in a one-game suspension.
According to NCHSAA officials, the rule barring teams from the postseason for accumulating ejections is about 12 years old. It is believed that no playoff-eligible football team has ever missed the playoffs because of the accumulation of ejections.
Pinecrest has made the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons. Union Pines last advanced to the playoffs in 2007.
"This was an unfortunate situation, and we in no way condone this activity, but in general both schools reacted immediately and controlled their players on the sidelines," Purser said. "We certainly hope that there will be no further incidents of this type this season."
Pinecrest has won nine of the last 10 games in the Battle of the Pines, including this year's lopsided 69-14 decision.
School officials have not said whether the Battle of the Pines football game will be played again.
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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