The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, September 30, 1997

Keep games safe
with better security

IT sure wasn't what I wanted to see after writing a column last week espousing the return of the postgame handshake in the Oahu Interscholastic Association.

Sitting in the press booth above the Leilehua High School football field, I witnessed the development of a free-swinging melee with seconds left on the clock Friday night.

The confrontation between fans from Leilehua and Campbell, who entered the field by hopping a fence, obviously was ignited by the surprise outcome of the game.

The underdog Mules scored on a deflected pass reception with only 29 seconds left to upset the previously unbeaten Sabers, 15-14.

Coaches wisely corralled their teams while police made their way to the scuffling that broke out in the end zone opposite the fan exit gate.

But the problem at Leilehua -- and this could apply to any home site -- was that there was no police presence in the end zone farthest from the exits.

Certainly, it's reasonable to anticipate that an outbreak of tensions is more likely to happen at the exits where departing fans of both teams converge. That's where most of the special duty police were stationed.

But isn't it also reasonable to expect a clash between factions in an unguarded area?

In the Leilehua incident, there should have been at least one uniformed officer standing behind each end zone as the seconds ticked away in what was clearly an emotional game.

Just the presence of a police officer, who carries with him the power of arrest, can be a sobering vision to the most inflamed fan.

Would you throw a punch if you knew you'd wind up in handcuffs?

With six police working the Leilehua game, it should've been possible to secure both ends of the field as the game wound down, and still have enough officers to handle the gate, the buses and the parking lot exit.

Despite the Leilehua incident, the postgame handshake should be reinstituted.

As long as sensible security measures are in place at every OIA home site, the ritual can be conducted safely.

It serves to remind fans that what they have just witnessed was, indeed, a game.

PEOPLE still talk about prep football realignment, creating a Hawaii super league.

But who would belong in that league with the National Prep Football Poll's No. 5 team, St. Louis?

Certainly, Punahou, which has beaten St. Louis twice under head coach Dan Morrison and has even gained a brief national ranking, belongs there.

And then, well, go ahead and name who else could be consistently competitive with St. Louis. Kamehameha, which was beaten this season by a team St. Louis thrashed? There's OIA powerhouse Waianae, which gave the Crusaders a good game in the 1996 Prep Bowl. But the history of the St. Louis-Waianae series is incredibly lopsided in St. Louis' favor.

Face it, the Crusaders have no peers here. They stay that way because the coaching staff knows how to help the players keep their edge for even the lowliest of opponents.

It might be better to just import nationally ranked top-10 teams like Hampton High, Va., DeLaSalle of Concord, Calif., McKinley of Canton, Ohio, and Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Calif., to form a genuine super circuit with St. Louis.

Of course, that's impossible, but more and more people are saying to me that they think it's incumbent upon St. Louis to take on at least one nationally ranked prep opponent in preseason.

Fortunately, it's an idea that Crusaders head coach Cal Lee likes.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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