One coach saw dirty play. The other saw nothing wrong. Though the Ketchikan High School and Thunder Mountain High School football teams hold different opinions of what happened at Thunder Mountain High School on Friday, one thing is clear: two young men ended up in the hospital and the Friday night lights dimmed after only 19 minutes of play.
Ketchikan forfeited the conference matchup over safety concerns after two players were hospitalized with injuries, ending the game in the second quarter.
“We walked off that football field for the safety of our players,” Ketchikan coach Jim Byron said. “I don’t agree with the way they were coached, the way they played. It’s dirty, it’s illegal, and I am just not going to have anybody else get hurt because of unfair play.”
Both Ketchikan players were injured on the same play. With 7:58 left in the second quarter, Thunder Mountain running back Roy Tupou tore through Ketchikan’s defense on a 36 yard touchdown run. No flags were thrown on the play but in Tupou’s wake three Kings players laid on the turf, one slow to get up and two barely moving. Senior cornerback Trevor Brock was stretchered off the field and taken to Bartlett Regional Hospital; senior free safety Nico DeGuzman was also taken to Bartlett.
One player was diagnosed with back spasms and the other a concussion, according to Ketchikan coaches. A Bartlett spokesperson said they released both players to their primary care physicians at 10 p.m. Friday.
Play resumed after 20 minutes and players from both teams seemed heated, arguing and shoving after plays were blown dead. Tensions between the teams built until two minutes later, when referees sidelined both teams and gathered around Byron.
“I just wanted to express that calls need to be made. … It wasn’t a bad conversation,” Byron said. “There was no argument, I was simply trying to protect my guys. I mean, guys are getting injured because there are no fouls being called, no flags being thrown with illegal hits taking place.”
After talking with the refs, Ketchikan promptly packed their gear and left the field. Referees also left the game immediately, one saying the game was ended for safety concerns. None of the referees issued comments while leaving the field.
Thunder Mountain coach Randy Quinto was bewildered by Ketchikan’s abrupt exit. What he saw on the field couldn’t have differed more from Byron’s version.
“I don’t know what I feel right now, it’s kind of a weird, weird feeling. I have never been a part of something like this,” he said. “Obviously my first concern is for their players and how they’re doing. We didn’t see anything that bothered us. When their guys were down on the field, we were just making sure we kept it down and be classy about it. It could be one of our guys.”
Quinto, though concerned for Kayhi’s players, didn’t see anything wrong with his team’s play.
“It’s football, both teams played hard. … There were no personal fouls called, no unsportsmanlike conduct calls, and, you know, even on that play with the three guys down, there were no flags. Last play on kickoff, there were two great hits. Legal hits. It’s football, it’s a contact sport.”
Play had been stopped for injuries four times previous to the play that brought DeGuzman and Brock down. Falcons players had been injured during the course of the game in addition to Kings players. The Alaska School Activities Association couldn’t be reached for comment in time for this story, but if any violations of sportsmanship happened between the two teams, the ASAA handbook dictates that “the Association will determine appropriate penalties and whether or not the student, coach or school will be suspended or barred from future contests or events.”
There were no personal fouls called in the 19 minutes of play. Quinto thinks Ketchikan has unfairly pegged the Falcons as a dirty team. After facing the Kings last year, Quinto said Ketchikan accused the Falcons of playing dirty.
“Last year they had accused us of being dirty once again. We showed them tape and we didn’t feel there was anything, so I don’t know if there are preconceived notions,” he said.
Byron was disappointed to have ended the game early, saying that he “hates to call it a forfeit because our guys aren’t quitters.”
“I felt like we competed, we have a good football team. We were already short a couple guys when we came up here and we felt like we could still compete and we did, but like I said I wasn’t happy with the level of play,” he said.
Though in a wider sense there was no clear winner Friday night, the forfeit will go in Thunder Mountain’s win column. When the game was called, the Falcons had a 21-0 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter.
Thunder Mountain will travel to Ketchikan for a Sept. 23 game against the Kings. Tending an “emotional and fired up” Kings team after the game, Byron said he looked forward to hosting the Falcons in three weeks.
“Playing down there it is going to be a different ball game,” he said.
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