CHARLOTTE, NC – A Pop Warner football regional championship ends at halftime after a coach says he was knocked unconscious during a fight on the field.
It happened in Cary over the weekend between teams from Charlotte and Raleigh.
In a video from the game, you can see a tussle between two players, with one player being tossed to the ground by the face mask. Then a cluster of parents, coaches and players rush in.
“I didn’t see any referees really moving in. so I ran out just to try and break them up,” said Derrick Thompson.
He is the offensive coordinator for the PAL Panthers out of Charlotte. He’s seen in the blue shirt running in to break up the fight. Moments later, he’s face down.
“I just remember waking up on the ground, like my glasses were off. And at that point I felt a foot hit me in the face and I was like, what in the world is going on,” said Thompson.
Thompson says he was knocked unconscious. Players and coaches separated and the Pop Warner Regional Championship game ended before halftime.
“It’s just unreal,” said Andrea Foster.
Foster is a Panther Parent. She watched from the stands and said the fight could have been stopped before it escalated. She also worried about what she called a lack of medical staff and security at the game.
“It’s just unacceptable for the organization to not be organized in planning their event,” said Foster.
“You don’t want that to be the last memory. They work hard all season and then half a game in it gets cancelled,” said another Panther parent Tripp Halpin.
Other parents say this leaves a bad impression following the game. The players are all 12 to 13 years old. And the Regional Championship is likely their last youth game before heading to high school.
“To make the regional championship, I think, is a big accomplishment that should be celebrated in any year,” said Thompson.
A Pop Warner spokesperson says a Panthers coach was suspended as well as two coaches and two players from the opposing team. The spokesperson also says:
“There simply is no excuse for this type of behavior. It is important to note that those actions are not representative of the many teams playing Pop Warner in North Carolina and nationwide every weekend during the season.”
The PAL Panthers were down 33 to zero at the time of the fight. The other team advanced to the next round.
A Pop Warner Spokesperson says they are checking to see if an athletic trainer was on site at the game.
They also say it’s unlikely that there would be security “because there is never security needed at a youth sporting event like this.”