PALM DESERT, Calif. - The Palm Desert football team earned their first win of the season last Friday, but it came at a cost. The Aztecs got into a benches-clearing brawl with San Bernardino with less than five minutes left in the game. Palm Desert led the game 45-6 and there was a running clock.
A late hit from San Bernardino led to several other shoves in front of the Palm Desert bench. After being shoved to the ground, a Palm Desert player threw a punch, and that escalated into the benches clearing. The biggest cause of concern for the Palm Desert coaches and players stemmed from one Aztec getting separated from the group where he was surrounded by several San Bernardino players. Lew Piper has a son on the team and he videotaped the entire altercation. "It was just a brutal attack on him, there were at least a dozen guys out there, had him on the ground without his helmet, going after him," said Piper. "There''s no room for that in prep athletics."
Officials called the game early, awarding Palm Desert the win. To ensure the team's safety, a bus came onto the field, then got a police escort to the freeway. Despite earning the win, Palm Desert could lose many of their players to suspension.
"Well anytime you leave the sideline when there's a fight, then you're suspended from the next game, and you can't bring up JV's to replace those kids," said Palm Desert athletic director Darol Salazar. The rule is enforced by the governing body of high school athletics in the state, the California Interscholastic Federation. They released this statement:
"The CIF Southern Section is extremely disappointed by the actions of those involved in the altercation between San Bernardino and Palm Desert High Schools during their football game last Friday night.
Actions like what occurred during this game are directly contrary to our organization's belief in Pursuing Victory with Honor.
The CIF Southern Section, as it does with all situations like this, has requested that the two schools involved in this unfortunate incident work with the CIF Southern Section Area Liaison of Officials to gather information and report all appropriate disciplinary action to the section office as soon as possible."
San Bernardino's athletic director did not return our phone call. Salazar believes the CIF should give Palm Desert some leeway on the sideline rule.
"I understand that's the letter of the rule, that's the way it's supposed to be, but I think sometimes common sense has to come into play, and hopefully that will happen," said Salazar.
Any suspensions the CIF decides to hand out comes at a terrible time for the Aztecs. They begin Desert Valley League play on Friday against Cathedral City. If the suspensions are severe enough, they could even be forced to forfeit the game.