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THE HIGH SCHOOLS / MIKE HISERMAN

Incident Is Not Worth Sanctions

October 30, 1994|MIKE HISERMAN

The rule book has been read, the film given a once-over, and coaches and players from the Sylmar and Poly high football teams are bracing for the worst.

Seven players from Sylmar and five from Poly were ejected from a game Friday night after partaking in a little push 'n' shove dance that caused a 20- minute delay during the second quarter.

Now comes the fun part: An attempt by school administrators to figure out who did what to whom, perhaps even why, and what to do about it.

Tomorrow, Sylmar Athletic Director Bob Miller and his counterpart from Poly, Jerry Cord, are supposed to pore over film, conduct interviews, discover the truth and determine the consequences.

Gentlemen, good luck. You'll need it. We've already had the pleasure of interviewing your star witnesses.

Poly Coach Tim Feeley has come to the conclusion that "the Sylmar guys (were) at fault for starting the fight."

What an upset.

Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman watched the same game and similar film only to determine that Poly players were at fault.

Imagine that.

For the time being, let's forget about passing judgment and focus on the obvious: It takes two (or more) to tango. Players from both schools share the blame for what developed into an embarrassing spectacle.

Kudos to the game officials who handled it by providing players time on the bench to cool off. We can only hope school and district administrators show similar good judgment.

One superior has already warned Engilman to anticipate "some type of disciplinary action" against the ejected players. One-game suspensions are a possibility.

Feeley, who hasn't been threatened, says he hopes that doesn't happen to his Valley Pac-8 Conference rival. "I hope administrators don't overreact about this. Sylmar needs their kids and we need our kids. This is football. That stuff happens."

You just heard the voice of reason.

Though two newspaper accounts described the tiff as a "brawl," Engilman says he didn't see a punch thrown. "Just a lot of pushing and shoving," is the way he described it.

Feeley claims his team will be quick to forget the incident should that be allowed.

"We have to win our next two games to get in the playoffs," he said. "That's what we're worried about."

Sylmar and Poly share what can be classified as a typical high school rivalry, illustrated by two incidents that took place in the week leading up to the game.

Last Monday night, Poly quarterback Ricardo Gamboa, receiver Jaime Cerna and another teammate were playing catch on the Poly football field.

Cerna gave his car keys to a friend to hold. A short time later, that friend decided to walk over to the Poly gym to watch a girls' volleyball match against--you guessed it--Sylmar.

After a while, fearing his friend might leave the school with his keys, Cerna jogged over to the gym looking for him. Inside, Cerna was recognized by Mike Cervantes, a member of Sylmar's football team.

Insults and challenges were exchanged. The Sylmar player went so far as to bet $20 that the Spartans would keep Cerna out of the end zone.

A former Sylmar teammate of Cervantes went even further. "If you're so good," the former defensive back told Cerna, "let's go out on the field right now and you can try to prove it."

So off into the night they went, headed for the Poly field. Gamboa throwing the ball and Cerna running patterns against a lone former Sylmar player. Cervantes stayed inside, no doubt chuckling to himself about earning easy money.

Three days later, less than six hours before the start of the game, the Sylmar offense was walking through plays in street clothes when a car pulled up filled with young men shouting insults.

Draped out of one of the car's windows was a Poly football uniform, No. 11. Cerna's number.

Before the game, as players representing both teams met at midfield for the coin toss, the Sylmar captains demanded that Cerna explain his disrespectful actions.

"I didn't even know what they were talking about," Cerna said.

He later found out what a couple of friends had done after they persuaded him to let them borrow his uniform for a few hours.

"Man, I even remember telling them, 'Don't do nothing dumb with it. It has my number on it,' " Cerna said.

Kids will be kids. Rivals will be rivals.

Let them play.

*

A footnote: Sylmar won the game, 69-6. Poly's points came on a 47-yard pass from Gamboa to Cerna three plays after the fight. In the end zone, Cerna recognized Cervantes standing near him.

"Hey man, where's my money?" Cerna said.

The comment cost Poly 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

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