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December 15, 2017

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Let’s judge Basic, Canyon Springs by how they respond — not by brawl

Image

L.E. Baskow

Basic and Canyon Springs players and coaches come to blows and police respond with pepper spray after the game, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017.

Prep Sports Now

Head-scratching

Ray Brewer and Case Keefer try to make sense of the latest line of surprises in high school football, including the unfortunate brawl that occurred at the end of Canyon Springs' win over Basic in week 4.

The punishment of forfeiting one game is appropriate for the Basic and Canyon Springs high school football teams. The teams exchanged blows at the end of a heated game Friday. It was captured on a video that went viral online, even finding its way to Deadspin and The Washington Post.

The fight wasn’t pleasant — pepper spray and punches never are. There’s regret on both sides, and rightfully so.

It was announced Tuesday the schools would forfeit their scheduled games on Saturday, which sure beats the alternative of canceling the rest of the season — a misguided suggestion by some. They are nonleague games, too, meaning there will be no impact in the playoff push.

It’s unfortunate that players who are invested in their team and who trained diligently in the offseason will miss 10 percent of the season, especially for the players who weren’t involved.

But it was impossible to assign blame individually. Some were trying to stop the fight, others contributed to it and others weren’t near the fracas. Teams win and lose together, and, in this case, are punished together.

Canceling games was a last but necessary step. Rule-makers couldn’t let this slide, especially considering the unwanted attention it brought to the area.

“This was a high school football game,” said Donnie Nelson, assistant director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. “A high school game is an extension of the classroom, and regrettably the adults, based on their actions, fostered an environment that is not reflective of the mission of the NIAA member schools.”

But it’s over. Time to move on. Time to learn from the mess.

Canyon Springs-Basic ends in cloud of pepper spray

Canyon Springs head coach Gus McNair winces in pain from pepper spray to the face following a fight on field with Basic players and coaches after their game on Friday, September 15, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Basic is a special place with a long history of good work in the Henderson community. Its stands are typically packed on game nights. The pride in the program shown by residents is off the charts. It’s one of the only schools in the area where graduates willingly return to see old friends on Friday nights, and they have returned religiously since the 1940s.

One incident won’t change that reputation and tradition.

The same is true for Canyon Springs, where coaches brag about the culture of togetherness they have created. The school, despite not opening until the mid-2000s, has established itself as a Northeast League power and sent many players on to college football. DJ Pumphrey, the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher and Philadelphia Eagles rookie, developed there. And not just athletically — socially, too.

It’s time for the schools to live up to their reputations. Coaches frequently talk to players about overcoming adversity to accomplish greatness, whether that’s on the field, in the classroom or socially. You won’t find a more adverse situation than this.

The negative attention won’t last. It’s still the first month of the season. There are plenty of games to play and memories to make. Both teams should be playoff qualifiers. (They could actually meet in the postseason.)

The best way to make amends is simple: Don’t let it happen again. Be disciplined. That’s not an invitation to stop playing hard or being aggressive. It’s a plea to continue representing your school with the same passion and realizing that the outcome of one play or game won’t define the high school experience. The way you respect the opponent and the game will be more telling.

There’s no need for double-digit unsportsmanlike penalties, which snowballed into the postgame mess after officials lost control of the game. I’ll judge the Basic and Canyon Springs programs with how they respond moving forward — not by what happened Friday.

I urge you to do the same because there are many kids who are hurting today, and they need our support.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21