By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
The Alabama High School Athletics Association’s investigation into a brawl that erupted between coaches and players following Friday’s Cullman-Walker football game in Jasper took a step forward Tuesday, when officials met with school administrators to discuss the incident.
Following the meeting, AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese released a statement denouncing the events that occurred after the game, calling it an “isolated incident.” In the days since the brawl, the fight has gone on to make national headlines in outlets such as ESPN and The Today Show.
“The AHSAA is saddened by the incident that occurred during the Cullman vs. Walker varsity football game and disappointed by the actions of those involved,” Savarese wrote. “The AHSAA is always disappointed by any unsportsmanlike incident that involves players or coaches from our member schools. Our coaches are teachers first, and must demonstrate examples of good sportsmanship at all times. We truly understand the passions that are involved in competitive athletics, but we can never allow those passions to cross the line and become unsportsmanlike in nature.”
Numerous messages left for Cullman City Schools Superintendent Dr. Doreen Griffeth were not returned by deadline of this article. Messages left for school board president Suzanne Harbin, school board member Brenda Howell, school board member Jason Neal, school board member Steve Sides, Cullman High Principal Elton Bouldin and head football coach Mark Britton were also not returned.
When reached Tuesday afternoon at a volleyball game, Cullman High athletic director Tim Loveless said he had not been briefed on the meeting and couldn’t comment as to what happened.
School officials have previously said no disciplinary action is planned for any Cullman players or coaches. It is unknown if that has changed following Tuesday’s meeting.
According to the AHSAA, the investigation is still ongoing. Savarese said the athletics association would release a statement once it concludes. The findings of the investigation will then be released to the respective schools.
“When that process has been completed, the AHSAA will release a statement. Any subsequent statements or information must then come from the member schools involved,” he wrote.
Walker head coach John Holladay, who took a swing at a Cullman assistant coach, reportedly resigned Tuesday night — after being placed on administrative leave following the game. When contacted by The Times, Jasper Police officials said they were still investigating to determine if any charges will be filed against Holladay.
A clear video of the ugly on-field scene following Cullman's 13-10 comeback win over Walker surfaced over the weekend, shedding a bit more light — but not a complete picture — on what transpired between the bitter rivals.
Early in the footage, which was captured by Jasper station TV16, Holladay can be seen pushing, punching and taking Cullman defensive coordinator Matt Hopper to the ground. The two were quickly swallowed by a sea of people, including Walker players and assistants, as well as police officers, who eventually separated each coach.
Nearby, a Cullman player appears to charge full speed at a Walker player and drive him to the ground.
Hopper emerged from the scrum with a torn shirt and visibly cut, bruised and bloodied face. He was further restrained and eventually handed off to Cullman athletic director Tim Loveless, who walked Hopper to the visitor's locker room.
Though it's unclear what was said between the two, Hopper and Holladay appeared to be exchanging words as Holladay and the Vikings were walking to the locker room to avoid the customary midfield meeting.
The Bearcats took the same route on the same field in 2012. Following a chippy 30-0 postseason win over Walker, which was punctuated by a near brawl late in the fourth quarter, Cullman sprinted straight from the sideline to the visitor's locker room.
‰ Sports Editor Rob Ketcham contributed to this report.
‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.