Friday’s Western Pennsylvania high school football game between the Imani Christian Academy Saints and Steel Valley Ironmen turned ugly in the closing moments with a fight. Punches were thrown during a pretty gnarly scrum that ultimately became the final play of the evening.
Imani trailed 16-7 during the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Rather than running out the clock and accepting defeat, the Saints tried to push.
Steel Valley tackled the ballcarrier out of bounds and into the bench with about 40 seconds left in the game. Imani players took issue with the hit, which led things to escalate.
A pretty rough skirmish broke out amongst the two sides.
Video of the altercation shows Ironmen linebacker Carlos Scott body slam an opponent to the ground. From there, as Scott laid on the ground, a group of Saints ran over and started throwing punches.
The fight occurred along the fence, which causes members of the crowd to run over and get involved. Although they didn’t join in from a physical standpoint, they were verbally berating the players as things played out on the field.
There may have been a few bumps and scrapes, but no serious injuries were sustained in the brawl. They may have had different accounts of what happened.
The Western Pennsylvania high school football coaches spoke out.
Imani Christian head coach LaRoi Johnson talked with his players on Saturday and issued an apology on their behalf.
All of my kids are extremely embarrassed and apologizing. It’s something that didn’t need to happen. It was a good game on both sides. Both teams played extremely hard. It just didn’t need to end that way.— LaRoi Johnson
Steel Valley coach Ray Braszo also stood by his players.
We don’t want this to be something that is representative of us. Our kids are definitely apologizing. The kid who threw the punches is extremely distraught about it because he doesn’t want that to represent him or his family like that.— Ray Braszo
However, Braszo placed the blame on the Saints. He said that the incident stemmed from one of his defensive backs getting roughed up on the Imani sideline, and that the dirty play before the fight was not the issue.
More or less, it seems they ran him to the fence. The next thing we know, people were punching him. … And then all hell broke loose.— Ray Braszo
The Ironmen coach also said that his players simply came to their teammate’s defense.
I feel like our team, honestly, was just trying to protect each other and get the heck away from there. I think it started on their side. That’s my opinion.— Ray Braszo
He also said that his players who were not in the game did not leave the sideline to join the fight. Johnson defended his team and said that some of his players will be disciplined.
We have to understand the moment better. We’re a young team. We’ve got a lot of guys that this is their first time playing varsity football. There’s (a difference between) playing football and understanding how to play football. That’s something we’re learning as the season goes along.— LaRoi Johnson
The Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League is investigating the fight. It will gather information, including video, and proceed from there.
Imani and Steel Valley are two of the best teams in the region. The Ironmen are the reigning WPIAL champions and the Saints roster is stacked with some of the top college prospects in the state.