Berkeley High School cancels football game last minute after off-campus altercation

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Kevin Chan /Staff

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After last Friday’s Berkeley High School football game against Tennyson High School was called off at the last minute, BHS administrators have been fielding many questions as to what caused the cancellation.

Clarence Johnson, head football coach for the BHS Yellowjackets, said an altercation involving BHS students, coupled with a social media post that “alarmed” administrators, raised enough concern to cancel the Friday game. The home game was postponed to Saturday, and was “played successfully without incident,” according to Ty Alper, BUSD school board president.

The varsity Yellowjacket football team defeated the Tennyson Lancers, 32-13, but nobody saw the win. No spectators were allowed inside Jacket Stadium to watch the game or the junior varsity game against Tennyson that preceded it.

“We rescheduled the game and did not allow fans because we felt it was the best solution to keep students and fans safe,” said Britta Fjelstrom, the BHS athletic director, in an email.

The initial altercation was directed at students from BHS, but did not involve other BHS students, Tennyson High School students nor Tennyson fans. Students from BHS did not initiate the altercation, according to Johnson.

The social media post implied to administrators that the user was going to attend the game with the intention of causing trouble, Johnson said. To his knowledge, the poster was not a BHS student or a Tennyson student.

Although Johnson and Fjelstrom were involved in the decision-making process, neither is sure of the specifics of the situation. By the time Johnson was brought into the discussion, he said the conversation had shifted from what caused the incident to how it should be dealt with.

According to Johnson, Superintendent Donald Evans led the discussion, and BHS principal Erin Schweng and administrators from Tennyson High School were also involved.

On Friday, Schweng sent out a statement to BHS students and faculty that announced the time change for Friday’s game.

“We know this is disappointing and I do apologize for the late-afternoon notice,” the statement read. “I hope you understand that safety for our students and their families is our primary concern, and that this decision was not taken lightly.”

Alper said in an email he could not share the details of the incident, but he stressed the importance of responding to potential dangers.

“Our highest priority is keeping everyone safe in our facilities,” Alper said in an email. “We will continue to be proactive and vigilant, and do everything we can to make sure that school activities can proceed safely.”

This is the first time BHS has canceled a football game in Johnson’s career.

“(In) the three years I’ve been at Berkeley, we haven’t had anything like this,” Johnson said. “I don’t know what caused their reaction. My biggest concern was my players, making sure they were going to be safe.”

Contact Anjali Shrivastava at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anjalii_shrivas.

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