On Thursday night, the rivalry between the two high schools took on a whole other meaning. With just less than nine minutes remaining in a MHSAA Division 1-1A football contest, and Vardaman holding a 28-0 lead over Houlka, a brawl broke out between the two schools’ teams following a facemask penalty.
“My kid was about to get up off the ground and he was on his knees when one of their players came up and hit him from the back,” Hollis said about his defensive player who was called for the facemask infraction and then was retaliated against immediately after. Cody “Jenkins was nailed in the back and that’s what pretty much started the whole fracas.”
Needless to say, it’s the MHSAA’s duty this week to sort through the information and evidence collected – game films from both schools, interviews, ect. – to determine who exactly is at fault and the appropriate punishments for those involved.
“We’ve been notified about it,” Todd Kelly, MHSAA’s director of communications, said on the phone late Friday afternoon. “We’re still in the process of gathering information right now.”
As a result of the brawl – which only lasted about 18 seconds, says Hollis and Houlka coach Rob Allen – Thursday’s game came to an abrupt end despite only three minutes of the fourth quarter expiring.
Six players were ejected – three from each team – in the schools’ first football game against one another. The Houlka football program is just in its fourth season and was mainly playing for pride Thursday night, whereas Vardaman was in contention for the Division 1-1A championship.
The Wildcats (0-9, 0-7) remained winless on the season, while the fourth-ranked Rams (7-2, 7-0) moved to within one victory of clinching the division title.
“I’m proud of my kids for staying back on the sidelines,” Hollis said. “We kind of controlled ourselves, and it certainly could have been a lot worse.”
The two head coaches said they weren’t aware of any injuries suffered during the fighting. Hollis did say he was disgusted with the entire Wildcats team for storming the field and for a Wildcats player taking his helmet off and swinging it at one of his players.
“I just looked for any player and threw them towards their sideline,” Allen said about what he and both teams’ coaches did to break up the scuffle.
Fortunately, the Vardaman-Houlka rivalry doesn’t affect Hollis and Allen’s healthy relationship off the field.
“Coach Allen and I talked on the phone today,” Hollis said about his conversation with Allen the day after the fight. “He and I got a good rapport.
“We’ll obviously have different opinions on what happened and what I saw – trust me.”
Hollis spent Friday copying game films from Thursday’s game so that a tape could be sent to the MHSAA’s offices in Clinton.
Allen said his principal and athletic director, Michael Gillespie, was to handle submitting a game film to the MHSAA.
As for the intensity of the rivalry, don’t expect it to simmer down in other sports such as basketball and baseball. The emotion and bitterness displayed during Thursday’s football game are similar to the atmosphere experienced during basketball and baseball games between Vardaman and Houlka, says Hollis.
Click here to see raw video of the brawl and more high school sports at NeMissPreps.com.