Three sanctions have been imposed to the Española Valley High School football team after a brawl broke out between players in their Oct. 5 Homecoming matchup versus Bernalillo High School.
The game was forfeited by the Sundevils (2-4) with 6:23 remaining in the first quarter after the scuffle between the teams happened following a punt by Española on its second possession of the game with the Spartans (5-1), who held a 7-0 advantage at the time.
The New Mexico Activities Association confirmed the forfeit Wednesday (10/10) and that all players involved received 1-game suspensions, although Association associate director Dusty Young said the Association can not disclose the number of players suspended from each school.
The on-field disaster came a day after a four-person shooting left former Española student and basketball player Cameron Martinez dead. A moment of silence was held in his honor before kickoff and the student homecoming court was also introduced, as planned, at halftime.
The Association also decided that Española’s next and final home game of the season Oct. 26 versus St. Pius X will be a a "non-spectator" event and no fans from either school will be allowed to attend. There is no ruling yet on whether the media will be allowed.
“That was done in-conjunction with the Española Valley High School administration,” Young said. “We worked on that together.”
The final sanction involves the Española fans, who were seen jumping the gates and running onto the field during the time when referees were still sorting out the rulings and ejections.
“Their fans and spectators have been put on notice for unsportsmanlike behavior,” Young said. “Any future incidents could result in more stringent penalties.”
After the brawl concluded, referees listed the jersey numbers of Sundevil players who were disqualified to Española head coach Miguel Medina and they read out those belonging to Ollie Fell, Christopher Salazar, Justin Martinez, Malachi Arellano, Isaac Baca, Armando Mendiola, Arlen Garcia and Bernardo Jaramillo. Jersey numbers 9 and 48 were also listed by the officials, but those numbers weren’t on the Española roster provided on game night in the press box.
The altercation began after a Bernalillo player was flagged for a late hit, which sent several Sundevil players into a frenzy, responding with violence of their own after the whistle in the form of punches and shoving.
Players from both teams cleared the benches (more from Española) to scramble toward the brawl that escalated near midfield.
Referees finally got control of the situation and after 10 minutes of conversation, they migrated toward the Española sideline to inform Medina that 10 of his players were about to be disqualified. One Spartan was kicked out after the altercation that was closer to 50-50 in involvement.
Medina declined to comment in full after the game but did confirm that it was his decision to forfeit saying, “You saw what happened, it’s one of those things where it couldn’t go on like this. Parents were jumping over the fences. It was going to get ugly.”
As Medina motioned to his players called out by the referees to leave the field, more fights broke out, this time between the Española players themselves.
At 7:37 p.m., just under 40 minutes from kickoff time, the teams shook hands as the game officially ended.
Before the brawl, things were already going south for the Sundevils, who lost possession on their first drive after Martinez snapped the ball over the head of his punter with Española pinned back in their own territory.
The Spartans started at the Española nine-yard line and took advantage as quarterback Damian Gutierrez found a wide-open Ayden Madrid for a six-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-goal with 8:49 remaining in the first quarter.
Just over two minutes later, the game was over, and Bernalillo left the Valley with a District 2/5-4A win.
Española is scheduled to travel to Taos High School Friday as planned to play the No. 1 ranked Tigers from Class 4A, according to the New Mexico Overtime Sports Center coaches poll.