Bench-clearing brawl mars Vardaman Rams’ victory

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

OKOLONA – Vardaman High head coach Justin Hollis viewed his team’s performance Thursday night as ugly.
The same could be said for the incident occurring in the fourth quarter of his team’s shortened 28-0 win over Houlka.
With 8:36 remaining, a brawl broke out near the Vardaman 35-yard line, prompting the officials to end the game as police came onto the field.
The fighting didn’t last for more than a minute.
“It’s always a rivalry game between us and them,” Hollis said. “That’s just the way it is, you know?
“I’m proud of my guys for not clearing the bench. Their guys did. Their whole team came off the sideline – for what reason, I don’t know.”
So what prompted the fighting?
A facemask penalty was called against the Rams, who were on defense, and the Wildcats “went nuts about it,” said Hollis.
“Why? I don’t know,” added the Rams coach, who says he’s good friends with Wildcats coach Rob Allen. “That’s what I can’t figure out.”
As the fourth-ranked Rams (7-2, 7-0) are playing for the MHSAA Division 1-1A title, the Wildcats (0-9, 0-7) are simply playing out the string.”
“Vardaman and Houlka have had this going on for years – this rivalry stuff,” said Allen. “This is the first time that we played football (against one another).
“I don’t condone what happened and Coach Hollis doesn’t, either. We’ll both deal with our teams appropriately.
“It’s an unfortunate occurrence. It’s unfortunate.”
The Rams, behind the running of Cody Jenkins and Lavorris Hatchett, built a 28-0 lead by halftime. Jenkins rushed for 99 yards and two TDs in the first half, while Hatchett had 82 yards and a score.
Donta Walker had a 69-yard interception return in the second quarter.
The Wildcats clamped down on the Rams’ O in the second half, holding their opponent to 13 yards of total offense and forcing a turnover.
But Thursday’s division game will ultimately be remembered for fighting.
“It kind of had been snippy, just trash-talking the whole game,” said Allen, “and I guess it kind of escalated right there.”
In the sea of bodies on the field, Allen said he didn’t see any punches being thrown, but was mainly concerned for breaking up the scuffle.”
john.wilbert@journalinc.com