Band melee was a classless act

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 5, 2007

I’ve seen a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown; a goal-line stand to win a state championship and a 70-69, seven-overtime football game.

Over 30-plus years of covering high school football, I thought I had seen it all.

I was wrong.

Friday night’s debacle in Ahoskie was perhaps the lowlight of my newspaper career. The good news is that it didn’t involve athletes. The bad news is that it happened all the same.

If the Hertford County High School Band Director remains in his position as you read these words, then I’ve lost all faith in Hertford County Public Schools.

What unfolded right before my eyes Friday night had more to do with total loss of control by an adult rather than the immature actions of a bunch of young’uns. Kids don’t think….adults do.

If Frank Williams did nothing to prevent his band from walking onto the football field while the members of the Bertie High School Band were still in-place, performing their routine, then he should lose his job. What he let unfold on that field was a disgrace, a proverbial black eye for Hertford County High School, not just the band….the entire school and the whole county for that matter.

I was standing on the Hertford County sideline at halftime, chatting with HCHS baseball coach Chris Towell, middle school football coach Eddie Allen and retired HCHS head coach Daryl Allen. I really wasn’t paying attention to the Bertie Band as they performed; I never do for any band.

I did hear the words “three, two, one” coming from near the HCHS bench. I glanced over to see it was the HCHS Band counting down those numbers. Turning my head towards the scoreboard, I noticed it had just reached the 10-minute mark of a 20-minute halftime. I guessed the “countdown” was a verbal signal to the Bertie Band that their time was up.

Apparently, the HCHS Band members decided they could show their Bertie counterparts that their time was up better than they could tell them.

I watched as two HCHS Band members (I guess they were the Drum Majors, or whatever they’re called) began to inch closer to the sideline, right at the feet of the Bertie Flag Corps who were on the edge of the field.

Then, it happened, as I uttered underneath my breath that this wasn’t going to be pretty.

It wasn’t.

The HCHS Drum Majors began to march onto the field. Their cohorts in the band followed, all right smack dab into the Bertie Band, still in formation and still performing.

One shove led to another. Some of the HCHS Band members, and I’m fairly sure some of the Bertie Band followed suit (I couldn’t see through the mob on the field), did the wise thing and headed back towards their respective sidelines.

But during the melee, a drum was allegedly thrown, one that struck at least one Bertie Band member in the head. Hertford County EMS rolled their unit to the Bertie sideline and transported someone to Roanoke-Chowan Hospital.

Where was Frank Williams in all this? If I were the HCHS Band Director, those students would have to run over me in order to get to the field.

This whole ordeal was a classless act by the HCHS Band. Did the Bertie Band exceed their time on the field? I can’t answer that because I don’t know of what type of arrangement the two bands had worked out in regards to time. But it doesn’t matter. The HCHS Band had no right to take the field while the visiting band was performing; period…end of story.

The actions of a few tarnished the reputation of Hertford County High School and Hertford County as a whole.

While the actions of the HCHS Band spoke louder than words on Friday night, hopefully the words of the Hertford County Board of Education will speak louder than that tasteless act.

Mr. Williams should be held responsible for the actions of his band. Ditto for the HCHS members who took part in the melee. And, provoked or not, if any Bertie Band members retaliated by throwing a punch, then they should bear blame as well and accept whatever punishment doled out by Bertie education officials.

None of this would have occurred if an adult would have taken charge of the situation before any HCHS Band members crossed the sideline. Apparently, there were none to be found until law enforcement officers and security personnel stormed the field to restore order.