McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

May 21, 2013

Eufaula Classic crossed the line

By Matt Goisman
Sports Writer

McALESTER — More than any other sport, football demands aggression. In football, after all, every play begins with an act of violence. The ball is snapped, and almost immediately as many as 12 bodies weighing more than 2,000 pounds crash into each other.

Coaches have to encourage aggression in their players, too much aggression can quickly boil over into uncontrolled violence. That happened Saturday at Paul Bell Stadium in Eufaula, where fighting between the North and South teams got so out-of-hand the 29th annual Lake Eufaula All-Star Classic ended without a winner midway through the third quarter.

As seniors, for example, none of the players feared the repercussions of their actions, and that helped cause the fight. But players also follow the example of their coaches, and South and Hartshorne head coach Bill Williams protested a penalty so loudly he drew an additional yellow flag.

Just one play later, one of his South players shoved a North player and got ejected.

Perhaps the referees should’ve ejected more players, though you can only eject so many before you’re forced to end the game early, which is what happened anyway. But while it’s unclear what more could’ve been done, the refs’ utter inability to keep control of the game definitely contributed to how it ended.

Administrators at Eufaula will have to make sure these events don’t repeat themselves next year. That will probably mean a zero-tolerance policy for the shoving and taunting that led to the fight, which means next year’s game could feature even more yellow flags.

If more penalties keep the players aggressive but not violent, they’re worth the extra stoppages in play and unearned yardage.

But if even that can’t keep kids from crossing the line, one wonders if the Lake Eufaula Classic can continue at all.

For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone.