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Elizabethton soccer brawl leaves unanswered questions

DOUGLAS FRITZ • Apr 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Things got rather ugly Tuesday night during Elizabethton’s high school soccer game against Chuckey-Doak. Left in the aftermath were five player ejections, an unfinished game, coaches unsure of their roles in preventing the escalation of a fight, and the TSSAA office not having anyone available in the middle of the week to address anything. Elizabethton was leading Chuckey-Doak by a score of 2-0 at Rider Field. The Cyclones had 13 shots on goal to zero for the Black Knights, and there was about 36 minutes left in the game when the altercation occurred. With first place in the Watauga Conference on the line, the match had already been hotly contested. “It was two teams fighting for first place,” said Black Knights head coach Anna Ricker. “The game was very physical. Maybe some earlier calls could have kept things from escalating.” Early in the second half, two players went to the ground on the Cyclones’ offensive end of the field. A full-scale fight broke out while the game’s lead official reportedly stood back and watched. Neither coach left the sideline, and order did not begin to be restored until some of the players and Elizabethton athletic director Mike Wilson got things calmed down. “The referee stepped back and did not intervene, and the whole thing escalated,” said Wilson. “Had the referee intervened and gotten the first two kids separated, the whole mess could have been avoided.” Cyclones head coach Bill McClay and Ricker both said they didn’t think it was their responsibility to stop the fight. “I’ve been told not to come out on the field or I would get a red card,” said McClay, whose team is 3-1 in league play and 4-5 overall. “I’ve been told my job is to keep people on the bench.” Ricker, whose team is 4-0 in league play and 6-3-2 overall, said she also believed rules confined her to the sideline. “I didn’t feel I could run onto the field because if I did my players on the bench would have run onto the field,” said Ricker. “I stayed on the sideline, and I expected the official to at least blow his whistle.” McClay said things got out of hand quickly. “When Taylor (Hodge) and the other guy started to tussle, I turned around to make sure my players were staying on the bench,” said McClay. “When I turned back around, there were three guys on Taylor. That’s when the rest of the guys got involved.” McClay said a couple of his players did not react well. “Once the melee was well under way, the response of a couple of my players needed to be better,” said McClay. “We’ve talked about that. Unfortunately, that’s the way it played out. It just shouldn’t have gotten that far.” When order was restored and the red cards were issued — four for fighting and one for a verbal incident — the referee decided the game should not be continued. “When the referee said the game was done, I called 911 because my concern was to get all of the people out of there without someone getting hurt,” said Wilson. Information will be submitted to the TSSAA by the head referee, and the organization will — eventually — make a ruling on the outcome of the game. “I don’t know where the game stands,” said McClay. “We had the game well in hand. I don’t know how (the ruling) will come out. It’s huge if we win because it puts us in position to get the No. 1 seed.” Ricker said she sees two solutions. “I think we either finish the game or have a double forfeit,” said Ricker. “I don’t think it’s fair to give them a win with 36 minutes minutes left in the game. With that much time, anything can happen.” A double forfeit would give Chuckey-Doak sole possession of first place with one game remaining. The first-place finisher in the regular season would play host for a potential rematch in the District 1-A/AA title game. One ruling the TSSAA could impose if it decides on a double forfeit would be to play the district title game at a neutral site.

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