Everything normal at Rich Central/South football game nearly two weeks after brawl
By Tina Akouris firstname.lastname@example.org October 12, 2013 6:32PM
Updated: December 12, 2013 3:32AM
The only thing that seemed unusual at the Rich Central-Rich South High School football game Saturday afternoon was a pregame meeting at midfield between the two teams and their coaches, ending with hugs between the two groups.
Normally, a sight like that wouldn’t happen before a game, but this one was different.
Rich South traveled to its district rival Rich Central in Olympia Fields about two weeks after a brawl broke out at the Rich South campus in Richton Park on Sept. 30. The host Olympians won 34-0 and improved to 7-0.
The incident ended with 16 students having criminal charges filed against them and 10 of those students were charged with felony mob action. One student, Crystal Gholson, 17, of Country Club Hills is being charged as an adult.
“Nothing is perfect,” said Ron Colwell, of Lynwood, a substitute teacher at Rich Central. “Whatever happened (on Sept. 30), that’s not in the forefront of my psyche anymore.”
Colwell said most of his students are football players and that he has attended several games this season. Colwell said he was not worried about attending the game Saturday, even after what happened at Rich South two weeks ago.
“(The football players) get a tremendous support from the parents,” Colwell said. “Things can get out of hand, and it was an unfortunate situation what happened. I try to teach these kids that violence is unacceptable and never an option.
“The players out here are superior individuals and have good scholastic ability.”
Olympia Fields police Sgt. Derrick Blasingame said there was no more security for the game than what normally is done. Blasingame said there usually are nine to 10 officers who work security for football games and that those officers also work at the school on a regular basis.
For this game, Blasingame said, there were 12 total officers, a small increase compared with other football games.
Blasingame also said he had not heard anything about weapons being brought in or potential fights that could break out during the contest.
“We just did our normal precautions, and there was nothing unusual,” Blasingame said.
One spectator who did not want to be named said he had never been to Rich Central before but that security “seemed pretty good” and that he didn’t notice anything unusual.
Fans were not subject to a bag search or any kind of pat downs. Two or three plainclothes police officers were at the home and visitors gates. A few plainclothes officers also patrolled the parking lot outside the stadium.
When the game started about 2 p.m., only about 100 fans were on the Rich Central side and about 50 on the visitors’ side for Rich South. But once the first quarter ended, more Rich South fans came and filled up the visitors’ bleachers.
The game originally was scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday but was changed last week to Saturday afternoon, presumably as a security factor in the wake of the melee.
Rich Township High School District 227 officials also decided on Thursday, after much debate, to allow fans from both sides to attend the game. School officials originally wanted to ban spectators from the game because of the brawl, but they later said they reconsidered as a way to bring the two schools and communities together.