The head football coaches from both Phil Campbell and Vina high schools expressed regret Monday for a fight involving players from both teams that also drew a few spectators from the crowd at the end of their game Friday at Vina.
“I’m responsible about our kids going out on the field,” Vina coach Ben Guin said.
Said Phil Campbell coach Kevin Barnwell: “I’m taking full ownership of the situation and I’m making sure these things don’t happen again.”
With a couple minutes left and Phil Campbell leading 48-0, Phil Campbell’s kickoff stayed low and in the middle of the field and traveled only about 10-12 yards.
Guin said Vina took offense at what it perceived to be an onside kick given the lopsided score. Barnwell said he did not want the kick to be an onside kick and was not trying to embarrass the Red Devils.
“It wasn’t intended to be disrespectful to Vina,” Barnwell said, noting he later offered an apology. “ … It wasn’t intended to be an onside kick.”
Barnwell cited a communication breakdown for the discrepancy between what he said was intended and what actually happened, but he accepted blame for it.
“I have to own it,” Barnwell said. “It’s my responsibility as head coach to own that situation and we’re going to move forward.”
“ … We’re going to move forward and we’re going to make corrections with our communications to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
A video recording of the game shows players pushing and shoving before the camera pans right to avoid broadcasting the fight.
Three or four fans can be seen walking or jogging onto the field. The recording shows one fan pulling two Vina players away from the fight, and the public address announcer can be heard telling fans to get off the field.
“We’ve actually taken care of that,” Guin said of fans coming onto the field. “We’re going to have to make sure some things happen to make sure we prevent that in the future.”
He said the gates were open because of homecoming festivities but from now on those gates will be locked.
“If (fans) come over the fence and come out on the field, we’ve got officers there,” Guin said. “They could possibly be arrested.”
The game, which was nearly over anyway, did not resume after the fight.
“We’ve talked some and I think he’s sorry about it and everything and sorry about what went on,” Guin said of Barnwell. “I don’t think it was any ill intentions. I just think it just kind of blew up all of a sudden.”
Guin said both coaches met with the AHSAA on Monday in Montgomery. The specific consequences for each team are unclear, but Guin said he expects both schools to be fined. Asked if his team will have players suspended, Guin said “We will have some” but said he could not say who.
Barnwell said he expects to hear today what the consequences for his team will be.
Guin said the AHSAA generally wants schools to handle the disciplinary issues themselves.
“There’s just certain things you can’t do when you play sports,” Guin said. “Hopefully we’ve learned a lesson from it and we can move on.”