Originally created 09/17/02

Investigation continues into football fight



COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Authorities say the investigation into last week's football fight following Northwestern's 14-10 victory over Marlboro County will continue and any possible arrests or disciplinary actions will not happen until later in the week.

Northwestern High principal Bill Gummerson said he and a group that included Trojans coach Jimmy Wallace and Marlboro County coach Dean Boyd spent about three hours reviewing film of the melee at Rock Hill's District Three stadium.

"We view this as very serious," Gummerson said Monday. "But we want to come up with a common understanding" about what happened and any discipline, he said.

Also present at the meeting were the Bennettsville Police Chief and an officer connected to Northwestern High, Gummerson said.

Ronnie Matthews, executive director of the South Carolina High School League, said early Monday he had not reviewed tape of the fight. He said the league could place both schools - Marlboro County won the Class 4A, Division II state title last year; Northwestern fell to Spartanburg in the Big 16 title game - on probation for the season all the way through the playoffs, ending their chances of more postseason success.

But Matthews said more important was finding out exactly what happened before deciding on punishments. "We had a very serious incident," Matthews said. "But we want to make sure we get the story straight before deciding anything."

Matthews said both schools have histories of good sportsmanship and have cooperated fully into trying to sort out what happened.

Witnesses said Friday's fight began after Marlboro County quarterback Syvelle Newton's last-ditch Hail Mary pass was tipped incomplete.

Fans rushed on the field and ran at the players. Several fights broke out with Rock Hill police officers pulling people off a pile that had developed.

Newton was apparently knocked out in the fight, according to reports in the (Florence) Morning News and The (Rock Hill) Herald.

The Herald reported at least four Marlboro County players were subdued with pepper spray.

Both teams and fans were brought under control after about 15 minutes.

After the game, Boyd said Newton told him he was surrounded by Northwestern players and while one held him, another hit him with a helmet.

Gummerson said about 20 hours of film has been look at since the fight and there was no evidence Northwestern players taking such actions.

Calls to Boyd's office Monday were not answered.

The principal said one Northwestern player looked like "he used a helmet for a weapon" and would likely face suspension. Gummerson would not identify the player.

Gummerson said attendees at Monday's meeting reviewed footage from several angles frame by frame. They had wide angle and tight angle shots of the fight gotten from the schools and from several area TV stations.

The group would discuss what they saw in a cordial, professional manner, Gummerson said.

Gummerson and the coaches looked at film in the hours immediately after the game to sort things out.

All the information will be sent to the High School League on Tuesday, Gummerson said.

Gummerson says two things that may have diffused the situation were if the coaches had gotten their players to the sidelines before going out to shake hands, and if fans were kept from the field.

Although Northwestern has long allowed girlfriends, parents and others to congratulate or console their players, Gummerson said the school district may discontinue the practice.