If there was just one word to describe Scott High’s game at Clay County on Friday, it would be hard to think of a better one.
It was ugly between the hash marks, where the Bulldogs rolled to a 53-7 win over the Highlanders. And it was ugly beyond them, where Clay County fans assembled along the fence that lined the field taunted and heckled Scott High players throughout the game.
“They’re kids. You’re a bunch of 30- and 40-year-old men. What’s wrong with you?” Scott High athletics director Eric Henry said to the Clay County crowd at one point.
By that point, Henry’s attention had been called to the situation on the fence by a member of the officiating crew. Asked by the IH about the incident afterwards, Henry said he alerted Clay County athletics director Rob Edwards after being asked to do so by the official. He said that he was told the situation would be taken care of. But, he said, it wasn’t.
Instead, Henry and Edwards had a heated conversation on the field at halftime. A bystander who overheard the conversation said that Edwards told Henry that it wasn’t his place — as the athletics director from the visiting school — to address Clay County fans. Bruce Lamb, Clay County’s first-year head football coach, also got involved, and could be seen from the stands yelling at Henry after players from both schools had made their way to the locker room.
As fans from Scott High became increasingly irate at the behavior from the opposing sideline, law enforcement from Clay County intervened. But several Highlander fans who made the trip to Celina said that they were treated as the aggressors, and were ordered by cops to leave the field after the game had ended, with some saying they were denied a request to use the school’s restroom facilities on the opposite side of the field.
“At Scott High, we’re classy. We handle stuff. If there’s something wrong, we’ll fix it. And we’ll fix it right then. That’s the way we do things as administration,” Henry said on The Round Table Monday evening. “They just don’t do that down there. They’d rather tell our fans to go around and not use the restroom after the game as opposed to saying, ‘Hey guys, don’t act like that.’”
Henry said the referee asked him after halftime if the problem had been resolved.
“I said, ‘No sir, it hasn’t,’” Henry said, “And he said, ‘Okay, I’ll put it in my report,’” a reference to the official game report that referees submit to TSSAA following each game.
Exactly what was being said by fans is unclear. But some from Scott High said that the fans were clearly taunting Highlander players, and that the behavior persisted throughout the game.
“I probably made more friends down there than I should have but I’m not going to stand by and let grown men say things to 16- and 17-year-old kids,” Henry said. “I don’t care what sport it is, football, soccer, whatever. We’re not going to do that.”
On the field, the situation was just as ugly. Scott High was flagged for a personal foul before the very first snap of the game. The 15-yard penalty was the first of eight personal fouls that were called on the Highlanders in the first half.
But the penalties weren’t being committed by just one team. Clay County wound up being flagged more times than Scott High. More than once in the first half, there were off-setting personal fouls called against both teams on the same play.
One player from Scott High was ejected, meaning he will miss the Highlanders’ upcoming game against Fulton.
There was plenty of ugliness, and plenty of blame for the ugliness, to go around. Neither side was innocent. But the ugliest incident of all may have been the way the game ended, and that blame goes directly on Lamb.
Up 40-0 at halftime, the Clay County coach left his starters in the game for the entirety of the second half. He was still calling passing plays in the fourth quarter with a running clock and a 47-7 lead. With less than a minute remaining in the game and the clock running continuously due to high school football’s mercy rule, Lamb used a time out to stop the clock and set up a final touchdown. It came on the final play of the game, giving the Bulldogs 53 points.
Scott High head coach Clay Harris was the offensive coordinator at Clay County last season, and was a candidate for the Clay County head coaching job before Lamb was chosen. Maybe there’s bad blood between the two men. Maybe there’s not. Maybe Lamb was angry at Henry over the halftime exchange and was trying to prove a point. Either way, it wasn’t Harris or Henry that Lamb was hurting by choosing to run up the score when he could just as easily have taken a knee and gone home with a 40-point win. The sting he was inflicting was being felt by a bunch of teenaged high school students playing a game.
Friday’s game was a horrible display of sportsmanship all the way around. High school football games are supposed to represent what’s good about interscholastic athletics. But this game represented the very worst.
All the personal fouls being committed on the field were unfortunate. But if we, as adults — and that means coaches and fans alike — can’t behave any better, what more should we expect from the kids?
This should go without saying: Yell at the referees if you must — you shouldn’t, but many of us do, and that includes this writer — but as a fan you shouldn’t be yelling at a kid unless you’re yelling words of encouragement. That goes for players on your own team, and it certainly goes for players on the opposing team. Grown men and women who feel the need to disparage kids who are simply playing a game should just stay home. And that goes for a few of the folks who were lining the fence at Clay County. Administrators at Clay County should have abruptly put a stop to it, but apparently weren’t interested in doing so.
Too often, we let our egos get in the way and forget that this game is supposed to about the kids who are playing it, and not about any adult in attendance. And, sometimes, the adults in attendance directly target the kids playing the game with vitriol and ill-will that is, quite frankly, disgusting. After Friday’s game, there are more than a few folks who should be ashamed of themselves.