Espanola Valley High School and Bernalillo High School football players shake hands after Espanola forfeited their Homecoming Game Oct. 5 at Espanola.
By George Morse Sports and Outdoors
Espanola Forfeits Homecoming Game After Fight on Field
The Espanola Valley High School football team forfeited their Oct. 5 Homecoming Game against Bernalillo High School following a fight on the field at 6:23 of the first quarter. The fight erupted near midfield during a punt. The Bernalillo punt returner was tackled immediately. Away from the action, an Espanola player and a Bernalillo player were involved in a shoving match following a late hit by Bernalillo that drew a penalty flag. A punch was thrown and that brought players from both sidelines on to the field, with more coming from Espanola. That was followed by more pushing and shoving with several Bernalillo players ending up on the ground.
Bernalillo was leading 7-0 at that point. Things had not gone well for the Sundevils up to that point. On their first possession, a pass that could have resulted in a big gain and possibly a touchdown was dropped by a wide-open receiver. An ensuing punt by Espanola went awry when the snap from center went over the punters head and into the end zone. The punter retrieved the ball and was able to run it out to the Sundevils’ nine-yard line.
Bernalillo scored three plays later on a pass from quarterback Damian Gutierrez to a wide-open receiver in the end zone. The extra point made the score 7-0 at 8:49 of the first quarter. On Espanola’s next possession, the Sundevils kicked the punt that led to the fight.
Once the fight was broken up and both teams went back to the sidelines, officials conferred and then informed the coaches that 10 players would be ejected from the game – nine from Espanola and one from Bernalillo.
Medina was told that one more incident and officials would end the game. As he was reading off the numbers of the players that were ejected, more fights broke out on Espanola’s side of the field among fans. Medina then decided to forfeit the game.
Medina chose not to make a statement until after he received a ruling on the incident.
NMAA Issues Ruling
The New Mexico Activities Association (NMAA), which oversees all high school athletic events in the state, automatically investigates such incidents. Normally, it would have issued a ruling Monday. Since Monday was a holiday, it was Tuesday when Coach Medina met with the Association’s Executive Director Sally Marquez, who also spoke to the team.
The Association ruled Wednesday that Espanola Valley would forfeit its Homecoming Game against Bernalillo High School. In addition, five players who came forward and admitted to fighting during the game will be suspended for the Sundevils’ next game Friday against Taos High School. One of those players will also be suspended for Espanola’s following game Oct.19 against Grants High School because it was his second ejection of the season.
Four Espanola players who were ejected but who weren’t involved in the fight will be allowed to play against Taos.
Two players from Bernalillo High School will be suspended for the Spartans next game Friday against St. Pius X High School at Bernalillo.
“I felt the ruling was fair,” Espanola Coach Miguel Medina said. “They could have suspended the school and players for 180 days. The fact the players came forward and admitted to fighting I think impressed them.”
In addition, no fans will be allowed at Espanola’s final home game of the season Oct. 26 against St. Pius X. Medina feels that this is because the Association has ruled that schools are to be held responsible for their fans behavior. This is in response to a brawl among fans that broke out in the stands during the State Wrestling Tournament at the Santa Ana Star Center in February.
Espanola is now an example of the punishment that can be levied. That punishment can include a 180-day suspension, which the Association chose not to impose.
Medina said that one of the reasons that he chose to forfeit the game was because he saw Espanola fans jumping over the fence that surrounds the field and fans fighting.
“I realized then that things had gotten out of control,” he said. “That’s not what I’m about and what this program is about.”
Director Marquez called Coach Medina a good man and urged him to stay at Espanola because he was needed there.
Medina reported that Espanola quarterback Makaio Frazier has chosen to leave the team.
With Frazier gone and with his backup one of the players suspended for the Taos game, Medina said that Gabe Quintana will be Espanola’s quarterback against the Tigers.
Espanola was already in shock and grieving for one of its own before the game. Cameron Martinez, a 2018 graduate of Espanola Valley and a member of the Sundevils basketball team, was killed Oct. 4 in a shooting in front of Ohkay Owingeh Casino. Three other victims were wounded in the shooting. There had been a moment of silence for Cameron Martinez before the game.
A memorial service for Martinez was held Tuesday at Edward Medina Gym at the high school. It was attended by over 1,000 people.
Espanola senior Kaylinn Martinez was crowned Homecoming Queen, receiving her robe and crown from last year's Queen Janae Ortiz. Justino Rascon was crowned Homecoming King by Dale Salazar, who was last year's King. The ceremony took place Oct. 5 at Espanola's Homecoming Game against Bernalillo High School, despite the game having been forfeited in the first quarter.