One of Kenwood’s key players lost control of his emotions in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game against Morgan Park at Lane Stadium.
He was overwhelmed by the pressure, by his team’s failure in a crucial moment and it all became too much. There were tears and screams and he was emotionally unable to continue playing.
That same anger and frustration boiled up in dozens of players on both teams at the final whistle. Multiple fights broke out all over the field as Chicago Public Schools security and coaches and administrators from both schools struggled to calm things down.
The chaotic scene lasted about ten minutes. According to Morgan Park coach Chris James approximately 18-20 players total from both teams were ejected during the course of the game and due to the post-game fight. James said he expects CPS to “levy some heavy suspensions.”
Morgan Park beat Kenwood 22-13. Both teams are loaded with college prospects and just outside the Super 25 rankings. Multiple media outlets were at Lane Stadium to cover one of the best Public League matchups of the season.
But the game was ugly from the start. The first quarter was marred by multiple unsportsmanlike penalties and it deteriorated from there.
A Morgan Park player punched a Kenwood player (in the helmet) after a play with 8:37 remaining. That set things off. An adult that wasn’t a member of the coaching staff ran onto the field and was removed by security.
There was a long delay while CPS Sports Director David Rosengard and the officials discussed how to handle the situation and if the game should continue. They decided on multiple penalties, some ejections and no post-game handshake line. The game carried on, despite the heavily-charged atmosphere.
“We have a lot of people here,” Rosengard said. “We have extra security, administrators from both sides. We have athletic directors. We talked to the officials and coaches multiple times. The coaches respect each other. The referees said let’s finish the game out. We gave them a minute to talk to each team. There are no right and wrong answers.”
James said tensions were extra high between the teams because one of Morgan Park’s top players transferred to Kenwood.
“The kids were chattering back and forth,” James said. “It’s a culmination of kids getting amped up from social media and playing football at a high intensity level and then emotions boil over and there’s a team that is going to win and a team that is going to lose.”
Tysean Griffin, Morgan Park’s star running back, may have understood what was happening better than the adults.
“I knew there was going to be some drama but I didn’t know it would be that much,” Griffin said. “That was on something else.
“They should have kept the game going but the players that were ejected should have been made to leave. Into the stands or something. There was an ejected player sitting [on the Kenwood sideline] that put his helmet on after the game and rushed our sideline. They all should have been kicked out.”
Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times
Morgan Park and Kenwood are South Side schools. This game would usually take place at Gately Stadium but was at Lane Stadium on the North Side instead. It’s the second year the game has been moved.
“Safety is part of why it was here,” Rosengard said. “Because of violence around different parts of the city. It was requested awhile ago. There are a number of factors.”
Moving the game to the North Side makes sense. It worked well last season. The teams deserve a chance to play a high-intensity game in a safe atmosphere.
But when that atmosphere is no longer safe, the game no longer matters. The final eight minutes of a high school football game aren’t worth jeopardizing the safety of a single person. It’s fortunate that no one was seriously injured in the fracas after the game.
“I don’t want to place any blame,” James said. “It’s hard for me to say what should have happened since I was coaching. I would have to see it from a fan’s point of view. But it was upsetting to turn around after the game and see all the groups of kids fighting.”