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Officials move forward after youth football brawl

BARSTOW • Emotions have had time to simmer down since Saturday, when a mass brawl broke out among spectators during a Barstow Youth Football game against a San Bernardino team, ending with one man knocked unconscious, a coach suspended and four people arrested.

Conflicting accounts have placed the blame on both sides. Officials are still piecing together the full story of what happened and trying to find a way to go on with the season, making sure that there is no repeat of Saturday’s events.

“The main thing is that when these players get back out here that they feel good, safe to play,” BYF President Ray Silva said in a meeting between officials and team parents Tuesday.

BYF has already bought orange construction fencing to set up between the field and the spectators’ stands, Silva said. At Tuesday’s meeting, some suggested setting up video cameras and requesting police presence or some type of security at the games.

Silva said that he and BYF board members will make a point of being present at games and will talk to Barstow Police Department about bringing in reserve officers to patrol the last home game before playoffs. In the future, BYF will develop an evacuation drill for dealing with violent situations, to make sure the players are safe, he said.

Barstow head coach Jerry Pinkney, who was cited on suspicion of disturbing the peace for his role in the incident, will be removed from coaching duties until at least next October, said BYF Commissioner Don Depue, who is in charge of handling disciplinary issues for the chapter. Barstow High School head varsity football coach Jose Rubio will take over Pinkney’s position, Silva said.

The fight between Barstow and San Bernardino spectators began after Pinkney reportedly pushed a San Bernardino player while breaking up a scuffle between the San Bernardino boy and Pinkney’s son, a player on the Barstow team. An emotional confrontation between Barstow and San Bernardino coaches and spectators followed the incident, eventually escalating to mass violence.

The two boys on opposing teams were pushing and shoving each other but not outright fighting when Pinkney walked over, pulled his son off of the other boy, and pushed the San Bernardino player to the ground with both hands, head referee Brandon McAnulty said.

Depue said he could not speculate whether the coach pushed the boy or merely touched him.

“As far as I’m concerned, if he just touched the boy, he’s done,” he said.

Pinkney was at work and not available for comment Wednesday.

Nicholas Wells, president of the Youth Tackle Conference of the Inland Empire, Inc., said the conference is still gathering information on the incident and was unsure what further actions it might take. Parents could face suspension or expulsion from the league, if they violated the parents’ code of conduct, which bans them from entering the field, berating officials, swearing and fighting.

Alfred Ross, president of the San Bernardino Hawks, said the chapter will meet Thursday to discuss the situation. None of the San Bernardino coaches have been suspended, because he had no indication that they were involved in the fight, he said.

McAnulty said at the height of the fight, dozens of people were involved

“I don’t know how many people were actually fighting, but there must have been close to 100 people out on the field,” he said.

Silva said he believes that the members of the Barstow chapter can learn from the incident, put it behind them, and move on.

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Fights in sports rare but inevitable

Fights like the one that took place at Saturday’s youth football game are rare but not unexpected in youth sports, said Dr. Traci Statler, a sports psychology consultant and assistant professor in sports psychology at Cal State Fullerton.

Tensions were running high throughout Saturday’s game, with spectators believing the referees had made bad calls, players using profanity and jostling each other, Barstow Youth Football president Ray Silva said. Those are the types of situations that naturally occur in the “inherently unfair” world of sports, Statler said.

“I think the leagues need to understand that our environment and society sets it up for this to happen, so they need to have a plan in place,” she said.

The key, she said, is to educate everyone from children and parents to coaches and referees on how to handle emotional and potentially explosive situations, Statler said.

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