The GHSA has handed out penalties to Fitzgerald and defending Class A state champion Wilcox County after a confrontation involving players, coaches and fans after last week’s football scrimmage.
There were no player or coach suspensions, although each school may take internal disciplinary measures.
“Even when things happen out of the blue, someone has to be responsible,” said Ralph Swearngin, the GHSA’s executive director.
“We want to send a message to students, coaches, school administrators, and the general public that school-based athletics ought to be an example of people behaving properly. That wasn’t the case here.”
The post-game incident has been described as a “brawl involving more than 100 people.”
It appeared to be instigated after a nasty exchange of words between Wilcox County coach Mark Ledford and Fitzgerald coach Robby Pruitt as the teams lined up to shake hands. Ledford was upset at Fitzgerald for running up the score and fans cheering after quarterback Nick Marshall was briefly injured on a play, according to Wilcox officials.
“I am sure there were instances where people threw punches,” Swearngin said. “I think it’s interesting that in all the reports we got, they all indicated that things like punches and people getting hit by helmets did happen.
“But no one has a clue who did what to whom … In order to have a [suspensions], we would need jersey numbers and some kind of verifiable evidence that these were the people that actually did that.”
The only video available of the confrontation was from a fan’s cell phone and proved to be non-productive. “To our knowledge, there is no video evidence that captures it from beginning to end,” Swearngin said.
Both schools have the right to appeal the GHSA’s ruling, which was based on written reports from both principals and three City of Fitzgerald police offers. Swearngin said that the GHSA penalties might’ve been more severe had the incident happened after a game rather than a scrimmage.
Wilcox County and Fitzgerald, two of the state’s most successful football programs, are located 22 miles apart and do not play in the regular season. Both schools agreed it was best not to play each other in any other sports for the remainder of this year.