High School Sports

Players suspended, schools fined after fight

Twenty-two players were suspended for at least one game for their involvement in last week's fight after the Stratford-Summerville game. But the teams were spared probation when High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton announced his decision Thursday afternoon after examining videos of the incident and talking to officials and coaches from both schools.

In a statement released Thursday, the High School League announced athletes from both schools were suspended one to three games depending on their involvement in the fight. The incident occurred during the post-game handshake after Summerville's 38-19 win over Stratford at McKissick Field. Police rushed on to the field to separate the players and then ordered fans to leave the stadium.

Both football programs were placed on "warned status" and both schools were fined for "serious unsportsmanlike conduct" by the football teams.

The High School League in its statement said "The decision to place the football programs on 'warned status' as opposed to 'suspension' or 'probation' was based on the fact that the unsportsmanlike behavior by the offending athletes, although unacceptable, did not reach the level of violence that warranted a more severe sanction. There was no helmet swinging (used as a weapon) observed; no kicking or stomping; no police arrests of athletes; and no combative issues of coaches vs. players, coaches vs. coaches, fans vs. players, fans vs coaches, etc."

If Summerville and Stratford were placed on probation that would have meant neither teams could have been eligible to win a region championship or participate in the postseason playoffs.

Rodney Thompson, the chief administrative officer for the Berkeley County School District said nine Stratford players were suspended. Six players were suspended for one game and three players were suspended for two games. He wouldn't give the players names.

Thompson said Stratford was not fined.

"They didn't mention a fine or monetary amount when we met with them (on Thursday)," Thompson said.

Dorchester District 2 public information officer Pat Raynor said 13 players from Summerville were suspended.

Summerville football coach and athletic director John McKissick refused to comment. Attempts to reach Stratfoord athletic director and football coach Ray Stackley were unsuccessful.

The incident and High School League's anticipated ruling were debated all week around the state.

Last year, Class AAA defending state champion Wilson and Lake City were involved in a similar altercation, and both teams were put on probation and lost their appeals to the High School League's Executive Committee.

Those schools respective districts issued a statement Thursday criticizing the high school league's decision:

In a joint statement from Florence County School Districts 1 and 3, the districts said: "The communities of Lake City High School and Wilson High School will continue to utilize teachable moments that life presents. Whether these come in our homes, the classroom or the athletic field, today it has come in the form of inconsistent application of the rules of the South Carolina High School League. Our students will be better individuals because of the manner in which they have handled adversity in the past and continue to handle disappointment now and in the future. The support show to these student-athletes in Florence County and the surrounding areas has been greatly appreciated. The South Carolina High School League could have used this incident as a teachable moment for student-athletes across the state, but chose not to."