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As Liberty, Desert Pines await fight decision, implications abound

Updated September 24, 2018 - 5:24 pm

For the third time in the past two seasons, a benches-clearing altercation was the story of a high school football game.

Pam Sloan, the Clark County School District’s director of student athletics, said administrators are alarmed by the violence. The latest incident occurred during Friday’s Liberty-Desert Pines game. Basic and Clark brawled earlier this month.

“Am I concerned? Yes I am,” Sloan said. “Two situations, two fights [at football games] like this within three weeks, this is not good.”

It is the fifth incident since the beginning of last fall, including one during a basketball game and one at a flag football game.

Officials from the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association and Southern Nevada Officials Association expect penalties could be announced Tuesday or Wednesday.

After the third football incident in two years, will the district do anything to reverse the trend? Sloan offered one option.

“It’s not going to be a good day when I have to have security or CSM (Campus Securities Monitors) stationed on-field on basketball courts or football fields to watch what goes on on the field,” Sloan said. “That’s ultimately the responsibility of the coaching staff.”

In the prior two football incidents — including Basic-Canyon Springs last year — the game was ruled a double forfeit and both teams were given a forfeit for their next games. After the Basic-Clark game, Basic was given a two-game forfeit because it was deemed a repeat offender.

Based on precedent, it’s possible the Liberty-Desert Pines game, which Liberty won 33-6, could be ruled a double forfeit. Liberty is scheduled to play Chaparral on Oct. 5, while Desert Pines plays Canyon Springs this Friday.

Desert Pines coach Tico Rodriguez did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Liberty coach Rich Muraco, who said Monday he is expecting a decision by Wednesday, fears the penalty might include a forfeit to Chaparral.

It’s possible no forfeits are handed out. In 2009, a fight ended a game between Western and Bonanza early, and the game was later ruled a double forfeit. No further sanctions were issued, but the players involved were suspended for the following game.

By rule, if three players leave the bench it is an automatic forfeit. Last year’s fight between Canyon Springs and Basic occurred after the game, but referees ended the Basic-Clark and Western-Bonanza games early. But Friday’s game was not halted after the altercation.

“Until I get all the facts and work with the NIAA and the CCSD, I won’t comment on that,” SNOA Commissioner Marc Ratner said of the third-quarter incident. “In the officials’ mind, they did everything right.”

Even if a forfeit is not issued, Rodriguez and Muraco might not be on the sidelines for their teams’ respective league openers. According to the Nevada Administrative Code (NAC 386.844), a coach is expected to maintain control of his players, and if a player is ejected after a physical altercation, the head coach should be ejected and suspended for the next game.

Multiple players from both teams were ejected Friday, and by rule they will be suspended for their next game if it is not forfeited. Neither Muraco nor Rodriguez was ejected.

NIAA assistant director Donnie Nelson said the association was still gathering information, but could take action as well.

“I’m sure there will be plenty of discussions as to why these proceedings have continued to happen,” he said. “Lot of talking points. We have a lot to talk about, lot to go over.”

Any forfeited games would be league contests and could affect postseason standings. Desert Pines and Canyon Springs are considered the favorites to win the Northeast League, making Friday’s games among the league’s most important of the year. A forfeit would give Canyon Springs a major leg-up in the hunt for the league title.

A Liberty forfeit would be damaging as well, ceding a game to Class 4A newcomer Chaparral, a game in which Liberty would be heavily favored, and give Chaparral a huge victory in the chase for one of the Southeast League’s four playoff spots.

Contact Justin Emerson at jemerson@reviewjournal.com or (702) 387-2944. Follow @J15Emerson on Twitter.

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