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September 3, 2013

Cullman-Walker brawl makes Today Show, ESPN (with video); school officials meeting today with AHSAA

CULLMAN — A brawl that broke out Friday evening after Cullman’s comeback win at Walker has made national headlines, with reports on ESPN, The Today Show and several other major media outlets.

Representatives from both schools are meeting with Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) officials today in Montgomery, though officials say it could be a few days until any potential AHSAA decision is made.

A clear video of an 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, Walker head coach John 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.

The Jasper Police Department and Alabama High School Athletic Association have both confirmed they are investigating the incident. Suzanne Harbin, president of the Cullman Board of Education, said Cullman City Schools officials will meet with representatives from the AHSAA in Montgomery on Tuesday to review the brawl.

According to the Daily Mountain Eagle newspaper in Jasper, Holladay, Walker's head football coach, was quickly placed on administrative leave by the school. On Saturday, Harbin said no disciplinary action was planned concerning any coaches or football players from Cullman.

The postgame brouhaha has made the rounds on several state — and even some national — news outlets. In a column published Sunday, Al.com's Paul Beaudry went so far to call for the AHSAA to ban both Cullman and Walker from the playoffs for their parts in the fight.

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