E.A. Sports Today

New: Wellborn will host; 6 players out

Players suspended, additional security added for Panthers’ home playoff game

Wellborn football coach Jeff Smith visits with supporters after he and principal Christopher Hayes explained the fallout of the Oakman game to the community Monday night.

Wellborn football coach Jeff Smith visits with supporters after he and principal Christopher Hayes explained the fallout of the Oakman game to the community Monday night.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Wellborn football team has resumed its plans to host its most important game in 19 years today without six of its most important players but determined to press on.

The Panthers will host top-ranked and two-time reigning state champion Madison Academy in the Class 3A quarterfinals Friday but will be seriously limited following the investigation of an altercation at the end of last week’s 24-23 win over Oakman.

They retain the privilege of playing at home, but will do so with six key players suspended for their alleged involvement in the post-game incident. School officials would not confirm the identities of the suspended players, but East Alabama Sports Today confirmed them through team sources as quarterback Landon Machristie, top running back Kevin Mixon, Corri Tignor, Tyler Lewis, Quandarious Moore and Dakota King, whose 25-yard field goal with six seconds left won the Oakman game.

“I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut,” Wellborn coach Jeff Smith said.

The suspended players addressed their teammates in a meeting earlier in the day and are expected to be in the bench area Friday during the game. They were at practice Monday, but didn’t participate. They are expected to be replaced in the Panthers’ lineup by their backups.

In addition to the suspensions, the Alabama High School Athletic Association placed the school on one-year, zero-tolerance probation through Nov. 17, 2015, and fined it $2,000, although school officials are working to have it reduced $500 with the implementation of corrective measures. Some of the 150 parents and supporters in Adcock Gym to hear principal Christopher Hayes and Smith explain the situation Monday offered donations to help defray the fine.

Any violation during the term of the probation will result in the Panthers being placed on “restrictive probation” that would deny them access to all playoffs, Smith told the crowd.

“When all that happened a lot of people came on the field,” he said. “I would say 90 percent of you were just trying to help out, protecting their kids and protecting the cheerleaders. Nobody came out maliciously and I appreciate all of you (but) at this point on we cannot have anybody come on the field or court.”

The incident erupted after Oakman’s final lateral-laden play ended near the Wellborn bench and fanctions from both teams poured onto the field. Video of the incident appeared on various social media and video supplied by Oakman was said to have aided in the investigation. Wellborn shut down its filming after King’s field goal gave the Panthers the lead.

“We ate a lot of crow,” Smith said of the school’s meeting with AHSAA officials during Saturday’s meeting in Montgomery to review the incident. “The thing they were most upset about was all the people on the field.”

King said Sunday he didn’t want to get involved in the incident, but couldn’t stand idly by while his teammates were in trouble. Witnesses said several of the players caught in the suspension were under attack.

“I didn’t want to go out and fight with them,” he said. “When they came off their sideline and they got into it with my teammates, I’m not going to let that happen.”

Several in the crowd Monday questioned the game officials’ handling of the game and were told that was a situation investigated separately. (Multiple sources told East Alabama Sports Today the officials who worked the game would no longer call games the rest of the playoffs). They also were concerned about the penalties Oakman received for its part in the incident.

Whatever the penalties, Smith felt the Panthers got the worst end of the punishment because they were still playing. The suspensions are only for one game, Wellborn officials said, because the incident took place after the game was completed.

Additional security will be placed around the playing field Friday night for the Panthers’ first home game in the third round of the playoffs since 1995. It is only the fifth time the Panthers have gotten this far in post-season play.

“I am going to ensure no one crosses that other fence line and I’ll use as many deputies as I can to make sure it never happens again,” Hayes said. “If we have anything out of the ordinary we will have the violators removed. … We are classy people and we want to show folks that. We’re going to do better.”

Hayes told the crowd he expected the Panthers go out Friday and give the visiting Mustangs “all they want.” Earlier in the day, before the suspensions were confirmed, he expressed confidence Smith would have a plan in place regardless what personnel decisions had to be made.

“I think the kids we’ll have out there are going to fight and battle as hard as they possibly can,” Smith said. “Those kids went out there today and had good practices.”

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