By Fred J. Robledo Staff Writer
DUARTE – Duarte High School football coach Wardell Crutchfield isn’t a favorite among his coaching peers in the Montview League, and those emotions spilled out in Friday’s league opener against visiting Gladstone.
A sideline-clearing brawl with 3:28 remaining and the Falcons leading 34-3 forced referees to end the game.
The Mid-Valley Division’s top-ranked Falcons improved to 4-1 and 1-0, while Gladstone dropped to 1-3 and 0-1, but the heated post-game comments from Crutchfield and Gladiators coach Albert Sanchez indicates bad blood exists.
It all started when Falcons running back Chris Harris, who rushed for 215 yards, scored his third touchdown with 6:13 left to give the Gladiators a 34-3 lead.
Instead of kicking an extra point, the Falcons went for a two-point conversion and failed.
That bothered Sanchez so much he asked for a running clock, which Crutchfield laughed off on the sidelines.
“He’s a coward,” Crutchfield said. “You can put that in the paper.”
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The fight started following a Gladstone punt with 3:45 left when Harris appeared to take a late hit. Players started shoving, sidelines emptied and coaches rushed into piles of players to pull them back.
“There is no reason to run up the score,” Sanchez said. “These are high school kids and you go for two in a situation like that. You’re winning. You’ve already won this game, it’s 34-3 and you’re going to go for two.
“He has no class; it’s as simple as that and everyone knows it.”
Crutchfield said he’s tired of everyone pointing the finger at him and his program.
“It’s a shame; they always act like Duarte is some type of caged animal,” Crutchfield said. “We didn’t start this fight tonight, they did. We pulled our kids back. I rushed in because they had 10 kids on one of my kids and I went to pull him out. Then one of their coaches throws a punch at me and I’m the bad guy?
“You know what? Three years ago they (Gladstone) faked a punt up 42-3 with six minutes to go and I walked over and shaked his (Sanchez’s) hand like a man and said, `Good game, coach.’ I never muttered a bad word about the guy.
“Are you going to tell me that we’re running up a score when it’s only 34-3? C’mon, give me a break. It’s because we’re Duarte.”
But was it necessary to go for a two-point conversion with the game already in hand?
“I can understand they might be upset, but it’s not a blowout,” Crutchfield said. “It doesn’t give them the right to start a fight. Talk to me about it afterward if you have a problem, but don’t take it out on my guys, and then blame us for it.”