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South Torrance Coach Can't Hold Back Fear

October 28, 2000|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was homecoming Friday night at South Torrance High, a fitting circumstance considering Spartan Coach Brett Peabody was returning to the sideline one week after he was the victim of an alleged postgame assault by members of a player's family.

South Torrance cruised to a 56-0 Ocean League victory over Compton Centennial, but the result was almost an afterthought for a school that has been in the national spotlight since last week's incident.

Peabody, however, said the trauma will not go away.

"I felt like I was looking over my shoulder all night to be quite honest with you," said Peabody, who was supplied with a police presence throughout the evening. "I don't know if I'll ever feel better about that."

Peabody, who was accompanied by his attorney during a postgame news conference, said he could not discuss the specifics of the incident.

"All I can tell you is that it was extremely scary," he said. "I've never been so scared in my life."

John Martinez Sr., 34, and his brother, Anthony Martinez, 23, both of Lomita, were arrested after the incident that occurred shortly after South Torrance's 24-21 loss at North Torrance on Oct. 20.

John Martinez's son, John Jr., is a senior running back and linebacker for South Torrance. The elder Martinez was reportedly angry that his son had only three carries in the loss to North Torrance and allegedly confronted Peabody as the coach walked across the field.

According to police, after a short conversation between the men, Martinez, without provocation, hit Peabody from behind and knocked him to the ground where he was also struck by Anthony Martinez.

Peabody sustained several blows but was not seriously injured, according to police. Chad Nammack, a South Torrance assistant who tried to aid Peabody, suffered a black eye.

Torrance police booked the Martinez brothers on suspicion of misdemeanor battery and released them. Police officials have said that more serious charges could be recommended and more arrests could be made. Sgt. Kevin Kreager, a police spokesman, said investigators will probably file their report to the city prosecutor early next week.

John Martinez Jr., quit immediately after the incident but rejoined the team earlier this week. He was not in uniform Friday, though Peabody said he would have started at linebacker if the district had allowed him to. Instead, Martinez wore a tuxedo and participated in halftime festivities as one of the candidates for homecoming king.

John Martinez Sr. did not attend the game, according to booster club officials.

Peabody, who said he had an "outstanding" relationship with Martinez Sr. before the incident, said he had not heard from him and "had no interest in speaking with him."

Peabody said he is still recovering physically from the incident. He walked with a noticeable limp Friday.

"I'm very sore," he said. "My back, my neck and my head and just about every part of my body is more or less nearly aching. I'm in a lot of pain. More emotionally."

Peabody said he is undergoing counseling to deal with the emotional aftermath of the incident. He acknowledged that he was not as animated as usual on the sideline.

"A lot of things were running through my brain," he said. "It's very, very difficult."

Peabody said he will finish the season at South Torrance and then make a decision regarding his future. His family, he said, wants him to continue coaching at some level.

"They still want to see me involved because they know how much I love coaching," he said, his voice cracking. "That's the thing that really bothers me. I love to coach."

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