The opening night of football play of the new Three Rivers Athletic Conference was expected to be a memorable one. Memorable yes, and one we should not ever forget.
The showcase game of the TRAC opening night took place right here in Fremont. The Don was packed with a big crowd primed to support the 3-0 Little Giants in a big battle against 3-0 league foe Toledo St. Johns. It was what many hoped would be a great night and beginning of a great era for the new league.
The game did not disappoint. A double overtime thriller that was packed with tremendous players and great plays. As in any big game the emotion of the night got to the players and in some cases on both sides, those players overreacted. The Little Giants and Titans were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls on a number of occasions.
There are three different guilty parties responsible for what ended up a terrible night. Those three parties are the officials, the Titans, and our Little Giants.
The officials let this game get out of their control quickly. As some people have mentioned the refs may have let the emotion and physicality of the night overwhelm them. The number of personal fouls should have been dealt with. At some point the refs should have started cracking down on the offending players. The officials do have that ability. They can eject players when personal fouls get out of control. They did not do that. At one point a referee actually pushed a Ross player on the field. The officals did such a questionable job that the forum was told by a reliable source that at the end of the game the guys in strips were told they may want to leave the field as soon as possible for their own safety.
Questionable calls by officials are always going to take place. Sometimes they will go our way, sometimes they won't. We cannot control the officials.
The St. Johns Titans were not innocent of wrongdoing Friday night. The Titans had a large number of personal fouls as well. The forum was informed by a parent of a player that Little Giant players were the subject of racial slurs hurled at them by Titan players. Our kids know these kind of things will happen. It has happened before. The kids should turn their backs and walk away from this disgusting behavior, but honestly, if I were an African American or Latino player being subjected to a racial slur, I cannot say that I would be able to walk away without responding.
After the Little Giants made it clear there would be no after-game handshake, the Titan players held a team meeting on the 50 yard line, sitting on our logo, staring into the Ross locker room. What did they hope to achieve by doing this? We can't worry about the Titans and what they did or why they did it.
And that brings up the handshake issue. After the game our Little Giants did not shake hands with their opponents. After a Saturday of phone calls and discussions with folks in the know it was determined that the referees did not tell the kids to not shake hands. What cannot be determined is if one ref told the Ross players to "stay off the field" while the Titans celebrated. A players parent informed the forum that such a statement was made and that the Little Giants took that to mean "go to your locker room".
We CAN and SHOULD be concerned about what our Little Giants do. By not shaking hands with their opponents on Friday night the boys in purple and white displayed a serious lack of class and sportsmanship. Fremont fans were outraged and had a right to be. We pride ourselves in being a class opponent and class host. Fridays actions tarnished that reputation. This is an issue that should be addressed. We expect our Little Giants to play hard, and play with emotion. What we don't want or expect are displays of poor sportsmanship and no class. We care about what happens. The folks in charge may want to get this under control before the fans stop caring. If they stop caring, they stop coming. No attendance=no revenue.
Let's not forget this past Friday night. And let's learn from it.