An incident between the Galion Marching Band and the River Valley football team before Friday night’s Homecoming game at Unckrich Stadium has left band members with a sour note.
As the band, filled with high school students and alumni, marched across the field during pre-game festivities, the River Valley team didn’t move out of the way, which led to an odd scene of the Galion band marching and playing around the team as it did its warmups.
According to several Galion officials, the field was supposed to be cleared at 6:30 p.m. for the band, but the River Valley team remained on the field.
River Valley Athletic Director Barry Dutt said the team was told about the ceremony before Friday, but weren’t made aware of where to go Friday night.
“It was an unfortunate situation,” Dutt said. “The football team could have been asked to move down the field. We would have been glad to move down.”
River Valley High School principal David J. Coleman agreed with Dutt, saying communication could have been better.
“The athletic directors from both schools communicated during the week prior to the game in regards to the homecoming activities,” Coleman said. “The agreement was that if our football team moved down to warm up, we would be out of the way. Our coaches and team did what they were asked to do. Our athletic director contacted Galion’s athletic director Monday morning to ask why the plans were changed and communicated that if we had been informed, we would have cooperated. The Galion athletic director responded that he did not have the itinerary for the night’s activities. This is not the first homecoming game that our football team has participated in. Every time previously, communication has prevented the chaos that occurred Friday night.”
During the incident, it appeared that there was some contact between players and band members, but no serious injuries were reported.
“I was in the first row on Friday night marching toward the River Valley football team,” alumni band member Brenda Treisch said. “I made eye contact with two players who showed no sign of surprise or concern. It was obvious that they expected me to stop marching before I reached them. I had no intention of stopping. When I was within two steps of them they moved just enough for me to march between them. If they hadn’t I would have continued my path and collided with them.”
“I was in the second row when we were marching on,” Sheila Maley added. “I had to physically push two of the players out of my way to get through. One of them acted as if he was going to do something to me but I just ignored him and went about my business. They just stood there like they dared we go through them. I had to go around some of the others because I now at this point couldn’t tell where I was supposed to be for our formation. I am sure I don’t need to say how extremely rude and disrespectful this was. Not only were the players out there but the coaches were right there with them.”
Crystal Payton, who has two children in the band, says she saw one member with a bloody lip and members were being sworn at by River Valley football players.
“I stopped playing my trumpet about 15-20 yards from the players, and I started yelling at them to look out, move, get out of the way,” alumni band member Cathy Moneysmith. “I was still yelling when I was about five yards from them. Finally, one turned and looked at me, but he never moved. Since I was coming up on the right side of the players’ back line, I was able to dodge around them and keep on marching to my spot, about another 10-15 yards. However, those on my left had to just plow right through them. Coaches and refs should have been on top of this. I hold them accountable. They are the adults here.”
In addition, when the color guard marched from the north end to the south end of the field, it appeared that the River Valley players didn’t give much space for them. Also, players reportedly didn’t leave the field until after the national anthem started and some walked to the locker room during the song.
“When the coaches saw the colors taking the flag to the flag pole, they told the players to leave the field,” Coleman said. “When the National Anthem began playing, the players had their helmets off and faced the flag. They would have been looked poorly upon had they stayed on the field. They were put in a no-win situation.”
Kaitlin Stakey, who serves as the Assistant Band Director at River Valley, took to Twitter following the game to express her displeasure with the football team.
“I cannot believe the football team tonight,” she wrote in one tweet. “Show some freaking respect for once.”
She followed up by saying River Valley band members were trying to move the team.
“Our band was screaming at them to move and the parents were staring at us like we were doing something wrong,” she added, citing in a later tweet about how multiple players ran over a River Valley player during last week’s pregame.
“I have never witnessed this kind of disregard for safety or disrespect of students not to mention the disrespect of the color guard bearing the flag,” Treisch said. “I don’t know who those coaches think they are, but it is obvious they have a inaccurately inflated view of themselves as coaches and human beings.”
Civitas Media reporter Andrew E. Carter contributed to this story.