The athletic director of El Cerrito High School says the Gauchos' football game he witnessed Friday night was nothing like the critical description contained in a Santa Rosa Press Democrat article accusing the El Cerrito team of unsportsmanlike conduct.
The paper's high school sports columnist, Bob Padecky, said the Gauchos lacked "class" in their 40-20 victory over Analy High of Sebastopol and committed 17 penalties – including punching an Analy player.
He reported that Richmond police cleared the field before the final handshakes because of the "ugly vibe," and relayed comments from the Analy coach that the visiting team was heckled the minute they stepped off the bus and from an Analy player saying the Gauchos were smack talking the whole game.
In a follow-up article, Padecky said the high school sports commissioner for this region, the North Coast Section, wrote to El Cerrito Principal David Luongo on Monday in response to the game. Commissioner Gil Lemmon, who said he saw fault on both sides and wasn't calling El Cerrito's conduct worse or better than Analy's, outlined conduct he expects to see – including clean language – in the championship game Saturday between the Gauchos and Marin Catholic High of Kentfield.
Responding for El Cerrito High following a Patch request for comment, Austin said Tuesday by email, "The game that was described in the article was not the same game I attended."
Here are the rest of Austin's comments:
I was at the stadium when the Analy team first arrived and there were no fans there to heckle them since it was at least an hour before the gates were opened to sell tickets.
Prior to the start of the game, I held a sportsmanship meeting at mid- field with the team captains from both teams, their respective head coaches and the game officials. I spoke about the need for both sides to respect each other, as well as the officials. More importantly, I told that they were each outstanding teams with unblemished records but unfortunately, only one of them would advance to the North Coast Championship final.
Both teams played tough football in a game that saw El Cerrito assessed a total of 17 penalties, however only 2 or 3 of them were actually personal fouls. The bulk of the penalties were false starts, holding calls, etc. Of course, as coaches, we admonished the offenders and spoke of the need for them to stop hurting us with sloppy play.
After the first half, when it was apparent that Analy would not able to keep up, I observed some negative elements creep into the game. One of their players would commit some perceived slight in the form of an extra shove or a trash talking comment. Our players would respond in kind despite the best efforts of the coaching staff extolling them not to do so. They were told the old adage of the refs only seeing the response and not the initial act.
One very perplexing incident did occur during the game which involved a member of the Analy coaching staff repeatedly calling one of our players a reprehensible name on successive plays. Again, we told the player to just ignore the taunts and continue to play good football.
At the conclusion of the games our players lined up to shake hands with their players and there were a few heated exchanges between a couple players and coaches. We sent both teams to their locker rooms.
I know that it was hard for the Analy team and their fans to suffer the defeat but that should not be allowed to color or otherwise overshadow some of the good and positive things that happened at the game. One of which was the return of Tyson Quink, an El Cerrito Alum wounded in Afghanistan that was honored in a halftime ceremony. The other was the Analy quarterback coming into the El Cerrito Locker room after the game and exchanging handshakes, hugs and phone numbers.
This was the game I attended along with the Commissioner of the North Coast Section, Gil Lemmon.
The championship game between El Cerrito (13-0) and Marin Catholic (12-1) for the Division III title in the North Coast Section takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. at Pinole Valley High School.