After their football game against Mammoth High School on September 24th, Coleville High School administration has decided that it will not schedule athletic contests with Mammoth during the upcoming basketball season. Or during boy’s baseball. Or during football next year.
Here’s one narrative.
It was a fumble. Clear as day. According to MHS Huskies Head Coach Martin Ezidro.
“[The refs] can’t see everything,” he wrote in an email, “but it seemed he was looking right at it.”
One of Ezidro’s assistant coaches, identified as Charlie Gray, didn’t agree with the call. “His passion was mistaken for aggression,” wrote Coach Ezidro. “We had a talk, and it’s gotten better.”
The referee ejected Gray. Gray left the field. The Huskies were down against Coleville with a minute-thirty left in the game. The Huskies scored. 28-24. The clock hit 0:00. The Huskies had won.
So, the team went to take a picture by the scoreboard. “Tradition after a win,” wrote Coach Ezidro. “[Gray] came back to take the picture.”
Back onto the field. Which is against the rules.
“A fan of Coleville put my coach in a chokehold for trying to get in the picture,” wrote Coach Ezidro. “It was all over a coach trying to get in the photo … ultimately, it’s our fault for not knowing the rules completely, but putting hands on someone over a picture seemed a bit extreme.”
Coach Ezidro wrote that it was a shame Coleville canceled future games: “We don’t hold a grudge and would love to play them again … The good news is, It’s behind us, and we are focused on Eureka.”
A Coleville chokehold.
Matt Toomey, who was also at the game, told the Sheet that he witnessed Gray being put in a headlock by a Coleville fan. What might have looked like aggressive behavior was just Gray defending himself, according to Toomey.
Eastern Sierra Unified School District Superintendent Heidi Torix was at the game. Had a bird’s eye view of the field. A chokehold? “I did not witness that at all,” Torix said.
What she did witness: “negative comments” coming from the Mammoth side. Mammoth coaches yelling, cursing. “A lot of F-bombs involved,” she said. The team chanting negative comments as they pulled away on the bus. An ejected coach coming back onto the field. A parent asking him to leave. The Coleville High School principal asking, too.
But no chokehold. No physical altercations.
“I don’t want us to come across as some angry, bitter, losing team,” Torix said. “That’s not really what it is. We just want them, in the end, to apologize.” Torix believes that any negativity between the two districts will make future games worse for the community.
The Sheet discovered the name of the alleged assailant from Coleville. Retired Navy and current firefighter, Benjamin Paladino.
Paladino, a Coleville parent, denied the allegations. He did not do anything physical. No chokehold.
Paladino heard about Mammath’s beratements from a third party after the game. He didn’t witness the extent of their profanity first-hand.
What Paladino witnessed: Coach Gray’s ejection. “I could hear him all the way across the field, cussing,” Paladino said. “When this individual was ejected, he threw a temper tantrum and walked off the field,” stopping to punt one of the orange cones that mark the end zone.
“After the game concluded, this individual attempted to come back on the field,” explained Paladino. “I went there to meet him.” Paladino told Gray that he needed to wait on the sidelines for his team. Coleville Principal Steven Childs then approached Paladino and Gray and repeated Paladino’s instructions.
“I tried to get him to leave campus,” said Childs. “He came off pretty hot-headed.” According to Childs, Gray took a fighter stance and appeared as if he was about to hit him. Later, Childs would file charges: criminal trespassing and attempted assault on a school official.
Paladino said that Gray then lifted up his middle finger and ran around him and Childs to go join his team. Another coach began yelling obscenities at Paladino and Childs. “It became a shouting match at that point,” Paladino said. After Gray ran past him, “It was almost as if he was like, ‘Haha, I got away from you. You can’t tell me what to do.’” Paladino described Gray as running across the football field, holding up his middle finger in front of all the spectators.
Childs explained that Gray was not coming back onto campus in a calm manner. He described Gray as yelling things like “F*ck you” and “f*ck Coleville.”
Childs said that the only physical altercations he observed was some pushing and shoving between another coach and one of Coleville’s parents.
The Interim Superintendent for Mammoth Unified School District, Fred Navarro, thanked the Sheet for giving him an opportunity to provide us with what he has learned about the situation in an email.
“First, I haven’t been working here long, but I can tell you that what transpired on September 24 at the football game did not represent the values and expectations of the Mammoth Unified School District,” wrote Navarro.
Navarro explained that “the unfortunate events were triggered when an individual dressed as an MHS Football coach was ejected from the game for challenging a referee’s call and for his vulgar use of profanity towards the referee and towards the Coleville sideline.”
According to Navarro, Principal Casey O’Neill addressed the student-players on the MHS bus “regarding the inappropriate behavior of [the] team” when they got back to campus.
Navarro acknowledged that the Huskies “represented [the] district well at the following game in Lone Pine (A 56-14 Mammoth victory last Friday which kept the team undefeated on the season) .”
“However,” wrote Navarro,” our players and our coaches will still need to make things right with Coleville High School, and we will continue to work with our Principal to help them identify how to do so.”
Navarro also wrote that “steps have been taken by the site administrator to reestablish the expectations and values of our school with the players and the coaches so that this behavior never repeats itself.”
The Sheet asked if the district was taking disciplinary action against the “individual dressed as an MHS coach,” if the coach would continue to be on the coaching staff, and if the district could verify any physical altercations that occurred between a fan and a Mammoth coach.
“Those are good questions,” responded Navarro. He then explained that state regulations prevented him from answering them.
In response to questions about the use of profanity, Coach Ezidro explained that what he witnessed “was an extremely close football game with a lot of intensity.” He observed Coleville players targeting his players. He has video of the Coleville QB throwing a late hit, “knocking [our player] to the ground, then motioning to [our player] with his hands and saying, ‘Come on, come on.’” When Coach Ezidro’s player took the bait and pushed, “the [Coleville] guy flopped like Lebron James,” resulting in a personal foul on the Husky.
Matt Toomey also mentioned a video that had been circulating of Coleville students in their hallways before the game, chanting “F*ck Mammoth Huskies!”
Coach Ezidro continued, writing that “there were curse words on our sideline throughout the game. Heat of the moment. No excuses, we shouldn’t curse, but we did not curse towards any of the Coleville patrons and staff/players during the game.”
That cursing – it was unlike anything that Lion’s Club member and chain gang volunteer Al Lapp had witnessed in all of his 30 years of working Coleville home games. “I never witnessed that degree of disrespectful behavior by a visiting team,” Lapp said. “They were using profanity nonstop, the whole game, which was very unusual. Some players and parents were using the f-word. Everybody was hearing it.”
Lapp described the Mammoth coaches as yelling mostly at their own kids, as well as the referees.
The main thing, says Lapp: “It was just so wrong that it needs to stop. We want to try to get somebody to make them stop.”
Lapp did not witness the return of Coach Gray, nor did he witness the alleged physical altercation.
Coach Ezidro believed there to be mutual respect between both teams after the game was over.
“That’s when all hell broke loose,” he wrote.
His coach, put in an alleged chokehold by a man “that was lingering on our sideline the whole game, was giving us the double finger and screaming at our players, coaches, cheer coaches, and cheerleaders to go F-ourselves and F-Mammoth.”
“Unfortunately, it prompted an issue and caused players to retaliate by waving goodbye while we were leaving,” continued Coach Mar.
“The fact that guy had to get physical with my coach for trying to take a picture shows their temper is not under control.”
Local John Burke wrote a letter to Mammoth Unified School District expressing his revulsion: “If nothing is done in regards to this incident, to this coach, then everyone addressed in this letter is complicit in promoting that kind of behavior. In my estimation, that coach should lose his job … There should be some standards of behavior, some basic morality that comes into play by those that are supposed to instruct, educate, and inform, especially with young and impressionable people.”
The Sheet could not reach Charlie Gray for comment.
Mammoth Assistant Coach James Gray, Charlie’s father, told the Sheet, “I believe [the events are] still being investigated. Casey O’Neill is handling the details, I believe.”
The Huskies face off against the 4-1 Eureka at home this Friday at 5 p.m.