By Joe Gisondi

Perhaps only the players involved in the fight along the Braves’ sideline during last Friday night’s football game know exactly what happened.

But even they could not see everything around them during the incident, which resulted in the ejection of two football players.

The end result: Referees appeared to discharge Charleston’s Langdon King and Mt. Zion’s Chiren Petty after deliberating for about 10 minutes after the incident.

It’s not even clear the role these players had, if any, in an incident that included people who apparently spilled over from the stands behind the Mt. Zion bench.

So we spoke with multiple people involved with the incident as well as with those who had actively watched it take place, which included several broadcasters and the game’s P.A. announcer, in order to gather multiple perspectives to make sense of it all.  Here is what we have pieced together.

Charleston assistant football coach Clay Berner stands beside Langdon King (right) and offers directions to Jeremiah Hayes after the altercation Friday night.

It seemed like a simple play: Mt. Zion sophomore Brayden Trimble caught a short pass, ran left for some yardage and got tackled by several players well short of a first down along the Braves’ sideline just past midfield during the third quarter.

The Trojans had scored about five minutes earlier to go ahead 16-7 midway through the quarter. Charleston would eventually go ahead by 16 points, lose that lead and then score in the final seconds for the upset victory.

The short pass had been the sixth play of a drive that Mt. Zion had begun on its own 19-yard line.

As soon as the play ended, the fight broke out.

Trimble appeared to react to the tackle as he stood up. Mt. Zion players, subsequently, rose from their bench and King disappeared midst the crowd.

Game officials attempted to get into the fray. Charleston football coaches raced across the field. CHS players on the opposite sideline moved toward the field, but head coach Jerry Payne turned and yelled back, instructing them to stay put.

CHS football public announcer Matt Piescinski, noticing at least a couple of fans leaping from the bleachers onto the track near the bench, commanded everybody in the stadium over the PA system: “Stay in the bleachers.”

The players soon poured onto the eight-lane track behind the bench. Coles County Sports photographer Chet Piotrowski says he saw a CHS player appear to get thrown.

Piescinski, meanwhile, noticed King well north of where the tackle had been made, pinned against the west fence separating the bleachers from the field. He saw a Mt. Zion player pick up King vertically and throw him to the ground.

Soon thereafter conditions start to get under control. King and teammate Jeremiah Hayes emerged from the crowd of players and walked onto the football field. Locke had his arm around King’s shoulders. They were talking with Payne while CHS athletic director Derrick Zerrusen was with Hayes.

Officials then appear to eject King from the game along with Mt. Zion’s No. 21, Chiren Petty – listed as a 5-foot-8, 170-pound senior wide receiver and defensive back.

Neither player can play this Friday, according to state high school association rules. That means King won’t dress for Charleston’s season finale against Salem High, per IHSA bylaw 6.011 that states:

“Any player ejected from a contest for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be ineligible for the next interscholastic contest at that level of competition, and all other interscholastic contests at any level in the interim, in addition to other penalties the IHSA or the school may assess.

If the school contests the ejection and video evidence clearly indicates that a player was misidentified in an ejection, the IHSA will work with the school(s) involved to ensure the proper player(s) are identified. After the IHSA Executive Director reviews the video provided by the school(s) and verify the misidentification, the misidentified player shall be eligible for the next interscholastic contest at that level of competition.”

Charleston and Mt. Zion high school officials cannot appeal the ruling.

After an ejection, game officials are required to send a report to the IHSA, which subsequently contacts administrators at both schools to investigate further, said IHSA assistant executive director Matt Troha. The state sports association can add additional game suspensions, if a situation is egregious, Troha said.

But, like other related matters, such actions would not be publicized. 

Mt. Zion coach Patrick Etherton said he was unable to discuss any disciplinary matters pertaining to players involved except with those students involved and their family members.

CHS administrators were not allowed to discuss specific disciplinary action either. But they did tell us they had not suspended any student from any football-related activities.

CHS principal Aaron Lock did offer this statement: “Langdon is a great student-athlete who is known to have high character. Langdon has never been known to exhibit malicious behavior on or off of the field.”

King’s mother, Stacie, said King was a little sore afterward, but he returned to the sidelines during the fourth quarter in street clothes and flip-flops.

The school, Lock told us earlier this week, was continuing to investigate the situation and would report any findings to the IHSA.

“Even though we didn’t get the outcome we wanted,” Stacie King said, “we are hoping this can be used as a teaching moment for the athletes. I hope coaches and parents will teach their children that violence is not the answer to anger.”