Jeff Nelson was disappointed with Thursday’s University Interscholastic League verdict. Beaumont Ozen and La Marque representatives had to be.
But the UIL executive committee wished to be emphatic. The state’s governing athletic body wanted it perfectly clear that stronger institutional control needed to have existed at the conclusion of their Class 4A Division II third-round football game at Baytown’s Stallworth Stadium.
A two-year probation was issued to Panthers head football coach Nelson and Beaumont Ozen’s football program and to all La Marque high school sports for their conduct at the end of that Nov. 26 post-season regional playoff matchup.
The schools received reprimands for behaviors which occurred during the post-game midfield handshake line between the teams. Ozen was eliminated in that third-round game, 18-6, before a bizarre brawl erupted with players, school representatives and the Baytown police department involved.
Officers pepper-sprayed players and coaches from the teams but never made any arrests. Slight shoving matches evolved into punches delivered from players on both sides.
Neither Ozen nor La Marque will be disqualified from any upcoming post-season or district participation as a result of the melee. More intense penalties, however, will be issued by the UIL executive committee if either school should be guilty of further misconduct during the probationary period.
“I’m somewhat disappointed and the situation is unfortunate,” Nelson said.
A small scuffle broke out during the fourth quarter of La Marque’s win over Ozen when it was reported that a La Marque player threw a punch at an Ozen player.
Several Ozen-community fans have told The News in recent months that police actions could have and should have been avoided altogether at the end of the game. But security used pepper spray, also affecting fans and non-football personnel on the scene.
“I’m embarrassed for our community,” La Marque head football coach Mike Jackson told the Galveston Daily News. “I’m embarrassed for our football family and our actions.”