FLOWOOD, MS (WLBT) – WLBT has been flooded with comments from viewers about this weekend's beating of a Northwest Rankin High School soccer player during the state championship match in Clinton.
One day after the story aired his coach and the Gulfport school district give their reactions.
Northwest Rankin Soccer Coach Chris Gardner was on the opposite side of the field and did not witness the attack on his player Arlington Shirley, but he is disturbed by the video.
"Any parent that sees that is going to be upset," said Gardner.
The 13-year NWR soccer coach said until Number 28, Zach Windom, threw the punches, it was a well-played, fairly even match.
"It was the state championship game, and it was competitive, and their kids were trying to win," Gardner said. "Our kids were trying to win. I can't speak for Gulfport's kids, but our kids desperately wanted to score the goal and tie the game and try to get into overtime. It was just unfortunate."
According to Gardner, Shirley and Windom are both right defensive backs and never came into contact until the end when Shirley was moved up front to play offense and try to get a goal.
"He almost scored immediately so I can only draw the conclusion that when they realized they had someone that might threaten that one-point lead, in my mind, they decided to take him out of the game by any means necessary," said Terrence Shirley, Arlington Shirley's father.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association is investigating, as is Gulfport School Superintendent Glen East.
He said he regrets that the fight occurred, but the altercation in the last minutes of the game does not take away from what the team accomplished.
"Forty young men represented this school district that night, tons of fans from both sides, hard fought game," said East.
When asked if he condoned the actions of the player at that particular moment, East added, "We're going to handle it internally."
Arlington's father said he is not prepared to make his son available to talk publicly at this point. The hospital administrator feels the 16-year-old's health and college career were put in jeopardy, and no action has been taken.
Shirley said he has not heard from the Mississippi High School Activities Association. He said Northwest Rankin's coach has been supportive and understanding.
Meanwhile, Coach Gardner is pleased with his team's reaction.
"Our kids on the field acted as peace makers as much as possible," Gardner said. "I think the video kind of shows our kids trying to break it up -- and theirs too, other than the one involved. I think all the players acted appropriately."
The Gulfport superintendent said the accused player is a senior, and suspending him from the team was not an option. East said he plans to meet with people who attended the game to get a better idea of what happened before and during the contest.
Tuesday, July 29 2014 5:50 AM EDT2014-07-29 09:50:38 GMT
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