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All-Stars Struggle With Fighting : Vow to Make Shrine Game a Battle of Tactics, Not Fists

July 23, 1986|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

Like cheese and ice cream, fights and football are closely related but do not mix.

Fighting on the field leaves an unpleasant aftertaste, as anyone who attended the Daily News high school all-star game last Friday night can attest. Two bench-clearing brawls and assorted pushing and shoving reduced what was supposed to be a showcase of the Valley's finest talent into an embarrassing free-for-all.

Officials of next week's Shrine Game at the Rose Bowl, many of whom attended the Daily News game, are taking precautions to avoid a similar scene. But they agree that no one can ensure a fight-free football game.

"In light of the incidents in the Daily News game," said Jerry Weiner, spokesman for the Shrine game, "avoiding any sort of fighting will be stressed to both teams."

Said Canyon High Coach Harry Welch, who is co-coach of the South in the Shrine game: "Fights are avoided through preparation. Canyon High School will never fight on the field, that I guarantee. I can't make that kind of guarantee with an all-star team. No coach can."

Teams typically practice for two weeks or less before an all-star game, making it difficult for coaches to develop the respect from players necessary to maintain control when tempers flare. Alemany Coach Enrique Lopez, who was co-coach of the East in the Daily News game, admitted he didn't know how many of the players would react in a volatile situation.

"You don't have a chance to build sportsmanship in two weeks," Lopez said. "We were busy teaching formations and plays."

Although practices for the Shrine game won't begin until Friday, several players from the South know already that fighting will not be tolerated. Canyon's Joe Zacharia and Simi Valley's M.J. Nelson attended the Daily News game and did not like what they saw.

"It was ugly and I don't think it will happen in the Shrine game," Zacharia said. "I've heard that college coaches frown on fighting."

Added Nelson: "You won't see fighting in the Shrine game. It's a prestigious event. We're there to play football, not fight. I overheard some scouts talking at the Daily News game. They didn't like the fighting."

Eric Turner, a defensive back from Ventura High who will play for the South, admitted he would be tempted to protect a teammate who was being punched.

"M.J. is a good friend of mine," Turner said. "If four guys are on him, I might be on the field. It'd be a matter of breaking it up, not a matter of joining in the fight."

According to Lopez, much of what appeared to be full-scale brawling in the Daily News game actually was harmless.

"Kids ran on to the field because everyone else was running on the field," he said. "I'm not excusing what happened, but there weren't many punches thrown."

Joining the teams in a friendly setting before the game may help diffuse tensions. The Shrine teams will spend a day together at Knott's Berry Farm. "That type of thing will build friendships and lessen the chance of a fight," Welch said.

Lopez suggested that a similar outing would be wise for any all-star game.

"Most of the kids don't know each other," he said. "Maybe next year a barbecue or something should be planned to make sure they know they are playing a game, not waging a war."

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