Courtesy of the Sabine Parish Journal
Friday night’s visit to Many High School by the Union Parish Farmers football team was a clash of championship programs that Louisiana high school football fans had eagerly anticipated. It did not disappoint – from a football standpoint.
Unfortunately, the visiting team’s conduct was extremely disappointing, particularly considering the prior cordial relationship between Many head coach Jess Curtis and Union Parish head coach Joe Spatafora.
The fireworks started well before the game, even before the actual trademark Many fireworks were ignited during the pregame entrance of the Tiger football team.
Minutes after the Union Parish team buses pulled onto the MHS campus, the trouble began. Spatafora cursed out a Many assistant coach for not allowing the Farmers access to the school gymnasium.
Many’s protocol is to keep the main gym locked, to avoid it being left in poor condition by visitors, and instead providing visitors use of the locker rooms in the back of the gym. Union and Spatafora had played at MHS previously and knew about that procedure, but he nonetheless unleashed the profanity-laced outburst at the Many coach.
Feeding off their coach’s unsportsmanlike conduct, once the Union players dressed out and took the field for warmups, some stomped on the Many M at midfield and even gave the Many coaches the old one-finger salute.
Many’s radio station sideline reporter even had a difficult time doing his pregame from the sideline due to the expletives coming from some Union players directed toward Tiger players and coaches.
Then the actual fireworks started. A football game broke out, a darned good game, at that. When it ended, there was an almost inevitable confrontation on the field, one which fortunately was short-lived.
After the outlandish behavior of Spatafora and members of his team – which had officials from Union Parish apologizing afterward – it’s likely we’ll not see another matchup between the teams, or the schools in any sport, for a long time.
In spring 2020, the Union Parish coach was suspended by his superintendent, who nearly dismissed him, following a much-publicized drunken argument with another north Louisiana head coach at the January 2020 LSHAA convention. Spatafora released a statement during the aftermath from that incident that has interesting implications considering the events at Many High Friday night.
“I am embarrassed that I did not maintain a professional demeanor while representing my school and myself at this convention,” he said in a Feb. 5, 2020, statement reported by the Monroe News-Star.
“I regret my actions and will ensure I do not drink to excess in the future. I will only conduct myself in a professional manner from this date forward.”
Bret McCormick, former Alexandria Talk sports editor, who is an LHSAA basketball referee and operates One T Photography providing sports action images to fans and media, was covering Friday’s game and fired off commentary on his @b_hoss_mac Twitter account Friday night.
“As a former media guy who now takes photos of high school football games, I try to stay unbiased. However, Union Parish is the most classless bunch I’ve witnessed in a long time. I expect nothing more from Joe Spatafora. Totally classless. (Union Parish star running back) Trey Holly deserves better.
“The sad thing is, it wasn’t even one of THOSE games. No fights. No late hits. No taunting penalties. Just a little flexing and talking. Union scored in the final minute to make it a 10-point game. No problem with that. Players didn’t (have a problem) either. Then, unnecessary garbage.
“….the postgame antics were totally uncalled (for), and it shows a lack of leadership from the top. Do better, Union. Garbage.
“As a basketball official, I constantly hear about the importance of sportsmanship. The LHSAA takes it seriously. So it infuriates me when I see such blatant disregard for sportsmanship. It’s disgusting and deserves to be called out and investigated,” McCormick tweeted.
PHOTO: Smoke from the start of the pregame fireworks show at Friday evening’s Many High football game.