Fight in Berrien cancels Rangers/Berrien games

Published 5:41 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Cassopolis Vigilant
Officials at Berrien Springs High School have decided to cancel sporting events with Cassopolis for the remainder of the 2003-04 school year following a series of fights that erupted between fans Friday night.
Friday night's Lakeland Conference basketball game between host Berrien Springs and Cassopolis was stopped with 4:01 remaining due to a fight that began in the stands.
Police officers from Oronoko Township, Sodus Township, Eau Claire Police Department, Berrien County Sheriff's Department and the Michigan State Police were summoned to the high school where a fight between fans in the stands escalated as people were being escorted out of the gym.
According to a police report from Oronoko Township, officers, who were at the game to provide security, observed an argument begin in the stands between two adult females.
As officers made their way to the stands, a Berrien Springs school employee, identified as Tim Sunday in the police report, started up the bleachers to help defuse the situation.
As Sunday started up the bleachers an adult male confronted him and a verbal argument ensued and quickly escalated. Sunday was shoved by the male in the chest with both hands forcing him to fall backwards, landing "about 4-5 bleachers down near the walkway/railing," according to the police report.
As officers reached the bleachers, they "entered the bleachers amongst fans including adults/students from what appeared to be both from Berrien Springs and Cassopolis that were all pushing, grabbing, swinging, punching, shouting and cursing towards one another as officers were attempting to separate the group of involved," the report states. "Officers were able to separate the unknown male that pushed Sunday along with two other adult male subjects and one adult female who appeared to be there to represent Cassopolis."
According to a published report on Tuesday, Berrien Springs principal Todd Wiedemann, who is a former Cassopolis Ross Beatty Jr./Sr. High School principal, said that no Berrien Springs students were involved in the incident. Wiedemann left Cassopolis and took the Berrien Springs position this past summer.
The report further said that "another disturbance erupted between the Cassopolis father, and, what appeared to be a Berrien Springs student near the student section.
Only one player was involved according to interim Cassopolis Superintendent Tracy Hertsel.
That player was Simon Ballard, whose family was involved in the altercation. According to the police report, "the male/female subjects involved from the onset of this incident were the parents of this Cassopolis team player."
Ballard started into the stands, but was grabbed by Cassopolis coach Floyd Foston and returned to the Rangers' bench.
Eventually police officers were able to remove fans, students, players and coaches from the building and order was restored.
While the building was being cleared, the Cassopolis mother who was originally involved in the incident, along with two adult males who had already been escorted from the gym, returned, according to the police report. While one of the adult males entered the Cassopolis lockerroom, a police officer made contact with the mother and the other adult male.
According to the report, Deputy Lighthart is actively seeking assault charges upon a police officer against her.
Hertsel felt that the situation may have been handled better by all parties involved, but it wasn't and as a result things really got out of control.
Now he is left trying to figure just what happened and how to discipline the fans and students who were involved in the incident.
Hertsel also felt that the decision by Berrien Springs officials was rather "rash."
A meeting of the Lakeland Conference superintendents was scheduled for Wednesday morning at River Valley High School in Three Oaks.
When asked if there was a chance that the league would try to vote Cassopolis out, Hertsel said he did not believe that to be the case.
The Rangers were scheduled to play Edwardsburg on Saturday night, however, due to the lack of information about the previous night's incident, that game was postponed.
A date for the contest, which was already been rescheduled because of snow, is yet to be known.