NP/Independence Drama

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 21, 2008

NP/Independence game skews into dramatic event

By Myra Bean

The North Panola/Independence district game progressed as a usual football game until 2:05 left in the third quarter.

From there the evening skewed into the unknown as a dramatic play unfolded before stunned fans and teams alike.

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Independence football coach and players are under investigation due to actions on the football field Friday night.

Independence Wildcat head coach Kevin Edge got in a verbal squabble with an official over a contested personal foul call on a kickoff which brought Independence within five of the Cougars, 30-25.

Independence was assessed a 15-yard penalty and a rekick from the 25-yard line. The kick never materialized as the scene unfolded across the field from the home side.

Edge was screaming at the official and waving his arms in anger. Edge said something to the official to warrant a penalty flag.

Spectators probably thought the drama was over–more yards would be stepped off and play would resume. However, Edge said something else to the official and out came a second flag less than 30 seconds later. The official then pointed with his right hand for Edge to leave the field.

No security or police came to escort Edge from the sideline and Edge continued his verbal barrage and walked further onto the field, pleading his case.

After about a minute or two of Edge’s tirade, the official approached the Cougar team on the field and told them the game was over.

Cougar head coach Clifton Davis Jr. approached the officials himself to get confirmation. After confirmation, Davis called the team together for a small celebration then quickly moved them to the safety of the fieldhouse. The teams did not shake hands.

In the meantime, while the Cougars were leaving the field, tempers further erupted on the Wildcat side. The Wildcat players began throwing helmets and showing other signs of anger over the way the situation had escalated.

As the officials were leaving the field, Edge and some of the players charged them. Law enforcement and assistant coaches finally intervened and turned the angry coach and players toward the fieldhouse.

Davis and North Panola public information officer Mack Dandridge reported seeing an Independence player go around the assistant coaches and shove an official to the ground.

Fans on both sides showed signs of surprise at how the game ended just as it was getting good.

“In all of my years of coaching, I have never seen anything like that,” Davis said. “There was not enough security. A player pushed one of the officials down. I don’t remember his number.”

The Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) has been pushing sportsmanship and every coach and player were strongly encouraged to go through the program.

“We have been stressing sportsmanship and it stems from the head coach,” Davis said. “We have to play within the guidelines, even though we do not agree with every call made. We, as coaches, have to guide the players.”

Coach N. Z. Bryant, deputy director of MHSAA, said they are investigating the incident as of 11 Monday morning. Some possible discipline scenarios Bryant mentioned would be the coach would be fined, players ejected and/or suspended.