PALM DESERT, Calif. - The College of the Desert football team's season ended in an ugly and violent way. With about 1:10 left in the fourth quarter, a broken offensive play by the home team Long Beach City College led to a shoving match between some players right in front of the COD sideline. Referees and coaches got involved and started breaking it up, when a COD player came flying into a crowd and kicked and tackled an opponent to the ground. Things got out of hand from there. LBCC's team cleared the bench and fights started all over the field and visitor sideline. A video taken by Jamaal Street, a sportswriter, shows players throwing helmets, players wresting on the ground, even members of the crowd getting involved. It takes a full sixty seconds to completely end the brawl. "I got into the end zone, I turned around and I saw punches thrown," said College of the Desert sophomore linebacker Derrick Nealy.
Nealy can be seen in the play right before the fight breaks out. He picks up a loose ball after a botched option play by LBCC. He takes off for the end zone even after the whistle blows. He says the fight started way before the final play. "They were throwing punches, grabbing face-masks, you know behind-the-scenes stuff, when the ref wasn't looking."
One COD parent says his pictures at the game prove the chippy play from LBCC. He did not want to be identified for the story, but says continuing to run plays while up 55-10 only added to the tension. "Long Beach City College, if they were a good sportsmanlike team would have taken a knee three times," said the parent. "Time's run off the clock, end the game and you're up 45 points, but they didn't."
We called and e-mailed LBCC head coach Brett Peabody for his team's side, but he did not respond. Despite what happened before the fight, Nealy says it doesn't excuse what his teammate did to set things off. "So, I understand his anger and frustration, I understand," said Nealy. "But, you still have to realize who you're playing for."
A team that finishes 1-9, but one that made personal strides after a tumultuous past. In 2012, the team dealt with several off-the-field issues, including one that ended in police shooting and killing player Frank Tanuvasa. The violence prompted an investigation of the program which led to two years probation and a one-year postseason ban. This year, the team wanted to make a change. "Let's be on a clean slate, let's forget everything that happened and just move on," said Nealy. "We might not have a good season, but at least we could say nothing happened."
But, the fight did happen and the college must respond. A spokesperson released this statement:
"Coach Dowty and the Long Beach coach are meeting today with the Commissioner. They are reviewing films and conducting an investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the players will be disciplined appropriately and in accordance with applicable policies and the student athlete code of conduct."
Whatever happens, players and parents want the team to keep their heads up. "This should no be a black eye or reflect poorly on College of the Desert or their football program," said the parent.
"I look at these guys and know they're not bad people, I know that," said Nealy..