UPDATED: Encinal Jets football team to forfeit Island Bowl

UPDATED: Encinal Jets football team to forfeit Island Bowl

Michele Ellson
Encinal High School

Updated at 9:31 a.m. Tuesday, September 30

The Encinal High School varsity football team will forfeit this Friday's Island Bowl following a bench-clearing incident at a game last Friday, the district's spokeswoman confirmed Monday.

Friday marks the 60th anniversary of the cross-Island game, played by Alameda and Encinal high schools.

School district officials said an Encinal player responded to a tough call during last Friday's home game against Center-Antelope in "an unsportsmanlike manner," which caused a fight on the field. Players from both teams cleared the benches to participate, the district said in a press release issued Tuesday morning.

Every player who cleared the bench or participated in the fight received a one-game suspension, school district officials said, leaving Encinal unable to field a team for Friday's Island Bowl game. Rules issued by the California Interscholastic Federation, which oversees high school sports across the state, mandate a single-game suspension for any player who leaves the bench to participate in a fight.

Even if that weren't the case, district officials said they think the players need to be held accountable for their behavior. Jets varsity team players will be required to perform community service with a local violence prevention organization, and proceeds from last Friday's game will be donated to relief efforts for victims of Sunday's alleged arson fires. And some of the players will also receive discipline from the school, district officials said.

"We recognize the Island Bowl is part of the fabric of Alameda. We understand the sense of loss many will feel as a result of our decision to forfeit the game," Encinal High's athletic director, Micki Singer, was quoted as saying in a press release issued Tuesday morning. "But, as a community, we need to support each other by holding one another accountable and by taking steps, however difficult, to teach young people to make better choices and to take responsibility for their actions."

The school's junior varsity team wasn't involved in the incident and will still play Friday, the district said Tuesday. The game begins at 6 p.m. Friday at Thompson Field.

High school football fans who learned about the forfeit decision from The Alamedan's Facebook page expressed disappointment. Some questioned whether the decision was unfair to Alameda High players and others who didn't participate in the fight.

"Why not punish the fighters not the entire city? Seems a little harsh and out of line with the rest of the sport which has it share of fights," Valdez Lasartemay wrote.

But others said they thought the decision was the right one.

"Every action has consequences. The rules are very clear about leaving the sideline to participate in a fight," said William Reggie Smith, who said he saw a video of the incident. "Being an Encinal supporter I am embarrassed by such behavior. To allow them to play in the Island Bowl would be a travesty."

Schools leaders said they understand how difficult the forfeit is for fans of the game, but said they need to set high expectations for student behavior and to help students reach them.

"We believe young people can acknowledge their mistakes and make amends for the harm caused by their actions," Interim Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said. "It is our duty as adults to teach them the difference between right and wrong."