By Jim Hagerty
Only two Jefferson starters will be in the lineup Friday when the J-Hawks face Huntley in the Class 4A Regional final, as the IHSA suspended three players involved in Tuesday’s post-game brawl.
According to the decision announced Friday, Chaz Johnson, M.L. Moore and Montel Brown are suspended for the the regional title game. Jefferson coach Todd Brannan was not involved in the fight but was suspended because his players took part.
The melee happened Tuesday at Belvidere North High School as East and Jefferson shook hands following Johnson’s last-second jumper that sent Jefferson past the E-Rabs 51-49.
According to video footage, East’s Tony Evans Jr., shoved Montel Brown during the handshake procession. Seconds later, both teams, along with dozens of parents and students, were engaged in a bevy of kicks, punches and shoves.
“It was about half way through the handshake line,” Rockford Register Star Assistant Sports Editor Matt Trowbridge told WREX-TV. “It was like a tinder box went up. It went from an emotional game to nothing is going on and then all heck broke out.”
The district investigated the incident Wednesday and determined players from both teams were complicit, even though it appeared members of the East squad were the aggressors.
The district reviewed four video clips and received statements from more than 40 witnesses.
Video released by WREX shows East’s Patrick Green chase M.L. Moore and punch in the back of the head. Because people joined the action from the stands, it was difficult for officials to stop the fight.
“Coaches made every attempt to stop the situation,” District 205 Director of Athletics Mat Parker said.
The suspension is for one game. That means if Jefferson wins Friday, Brannan, Johnson, Moore and Brown will get the chance to advance to the state tournament.
“Ninety-nine percent of the time our student athletes, coaches, community members and parents act in a professional manner,” Parker said. “This incident does not define or depict what is occurring in Rockford Public Schools.”
No police officers were present during Tuesday’s game. District officials say there will be officers in the Belvidere North gym Friday.