Referee Tackled, Knocked Out; High School Player Arrested
GALLUP, N.M. (AP) _ A Wingate High School football player faces a felony battery charge following his arrest for tackling a referee from behind after being ejected from a game.
Gilbert Jefferson, 18, remained jailed today at the McKinley County Detention Center on charges of aggravated battery on a school employee. He was arrested during Wingate’s game Friday night against visiting Crownpoint.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Sanchez said an investigation was continuing, but Jefferson could face up to 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Referee Allen Bainter was discharged Sunday from Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital. His wife, Pat, said her husband had been knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion.
``He said he remembers going to the game, but that was about all,″ she said. ``It’s ridiculous. I don’t understand it, but I’m not surprised anymore. It’s just amazing what’s happening in sports these days.″
The game was declared a forfeit, giving Crownpoint a 1-0 win. The loss denied Wingate a spot in the state playoffs and gave Tohatchi the District 6AAA runner-up spot and post-season berth.
Wingate, a predominantly Navajo Indian school, was leading 22-18 in the fourth quarter when Jefferson, a running back and linebacker, was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Jefferson protested and went to the sidelines. Moments later, he ran back onto the field and struck Bainter from behind.
``(Jefferson) had about 35 yards head start, running at full speed,″ said Crownpoint coach Tim Garro.
Added McKinley County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Kendall: ``He rang the ref’s bell pretty bad. The guy couldn’t remember his name when the paramedics asked him.″
Wingate coach Gary Schuster declined comment, and principal Adam Bull said school officials would discuss the incident Tuesday. The school is closed today because of the Veterans Day holiday.
``We are investigating it ourselves,″ Bull said. ``We want to do the right things for the kid and the officials.″
It’s not the first problem to crop up in New Mexico high school football this fall.
St. Pius High School senior center Mike Cito, accused of playing with a razor-sharp helmet buckle that injured opponents, was expelled from the Roman Catholic school in Albuquerque on Oct. 14.
Referees stopped the Oct. 12 game between St. Pius and Albuquerque Academy after several Academy players received cuts during play. A check of the football equipment revealed Cito’s helmet buckle was sharp enough to shred a magazine cover.
Cito was expelled after St. Pius principal, the Rev. Ronald Schwenzer, said the boy’s father, dentist Stephen Cito, admitted sharpening the buckle because he felt his son had been roughed up in another game one week earlier.