HATTIESBURG, Mississippi (AP) — Hattiesburg High School will not face any penalties for its part in a fight that occurred moments after the Tigers’ 38-31 victory over Gulfport last Friday at Hattiesburg.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association determined that no Hattiesburg players were identified as throwing punches in an altercation that started after the Tigers kicked the extra-point following their touchdown in the overtime period that won the game for Hattiesburg.
“They pretty much came up with the same results that the Hattiesburg Public School District did,” said Hattiesburg athletic director Cheyenne Trussell.
“As soon as it happened, we looked at tape of the incident and by 11:30 that night we sent a copy of all the footage we had to the MHSAA. The next day we looked at it step-by-step, frame-by-frame to see if any punches were thrown by our players, and we saw none.”
Gulfport also sent footage of the incident to the MHSAA, but didn’t wait on the association before handing out penalties to five players. Two players were suspended for the Admirals’ next two games and three others were suspended for this week’s game against D’Iberville.
In addition, another Gulfport player was suspended indefinitely for making threatening posts on Twitter.
The MHSAA accepted and upheld the penalties the school imposed and placed the Gulfport program on disciplinary probation for the remainder of the 2014 season,
“We have been forthcoming with the MHSAA since Friday evening,” Gulfport athletic director Bryan Caldwell said Tuesday.
“We have been very proactive in dealing with our players. The suspensions have been imposed by Gulfport High School, not the MHSAA. I think we are in no jeopardy in regard to the state playoffs or having games cancelled.”
The Region 4-6A showdown was an emotional contest with first place in the region on the line. The Tigers overcame a 24-0 first-half deficit to come back and tie the game with approximately three minutes remaining in regulation.
Gulfport then had an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds, but a field goal attempt was blocked by Hattiesburg defender Jamikal Overstreet.
The Admirals got the ball first in overtime, and thought they scored a touchdown on a fourth-down play from the 1-yard line. However, it was ruled that Du’jour Maddox, the Gulfport runner, was stopped inches short, a decision the Admiral coaching staff vehemently disagreed with.
As a result, Gulfport was penalized for unsportsmanlike behavior, then penalized again for illegal substitution. Thus, the Tigers’ first play in overtime started from the 2-yard line, and on first down, Xavier Yancey barreled in for the game-winning score.
At that point, the Gulfport team and coaches began to leave the field, thinking the game was over, but then had to be called back for the PAT, which is needed for playoff tiebreaker concerns.
Immediately following the kick, two Admiral players knocked over Tiger kicker Anthony Cafalone, some pushing and shoving occurred and punches were thrown by several Gulfport players.
At that point, both benches began to clear, but coaches, administrators and law enforcement personnel quickly got the situation under control.
Tiger coach Tony Vance praised his players for not fighting back.
“It’s just unfortunate that it even took place at all,” said Vance. “It’s not something you ever want to be a part of. In the end, though, I’m happy with the finding that our kids acted properly.
“We’ve got a great group of kids, and we’ve talked a lot about doing the right thing, and not responding in situations like that.”