Series of mishaps leads to Walker-Cullman brawl
by Johnathan Bentley
Sep 05, 2013 | 12307 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Johnathan Bentley
Johnathan Bentley
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Good Morning America has done its piece.

The Today Show too.

Starting Saturday, it seemed every national and state media outlet was talking about the infamous brawl between Walker head coach John Holladay and Cullman defensive coordinator Matt Hopper.

On Facebook and Twitter, both coaches have been vilified and defended for what happened seconds after Walker's loss to the Bearcats.

Holladay resigned four days after the incident and the AHSAA is expected to rule on the penalties phase sometime this week.

Friday's unfortunate finish reminds me a lot of one of my favorite shows — Seconds From Disaster.

On the show, the disaster varied — from train crash to oil rig explosion — but the plot was always the same.

To start the show, everything was normal. Eventually, something minor went wrong starting a chain reaction that ended up with the disaster.

That's exactly what happened Friday night at Walker's Ki-Ro Gambrell Field.

A series of minor mishaps in the game morphed into disaster.

In Friday's game, Walker led 10-0 at the half, but the Vikings had a chance to add to their lead and possibly put the game away in the second quarter. Walker drove to the 4-yard line, but was stopped on 3rd-down. The Vikings attempted a 21-yard field goal, which is a yard longer than an extra point. The attempt went wide right, leaving the score 10-0.

Late in the game, with Walker holding a 10-6 lead, the Vikings were hurt by their own chain crew.

Keeping up with the stats on the sideline I wondered why the down marker read 3rd down for a second straight play. Had I missed a penalty? I must have because surely the chain crew wouldn't make such a mistake with the game on the line.

Only they did.

With Walker thinking they were running a 3rd-and-12 play, the Vikings were in fact facing a 4th-and-12 play — at their own 45-yard line. After a nine-yard gain, Walker was looking at 4th-and-3 and most likely a punt. Instead, Cullman got the ball its own 46-yard line with 3:03 left on the clock.

Not only did Walker not pin Cullman deep in its own territory, the Bearcats were set up with a short field and plenty of time on the clock.

Walker wasn't done yet.

On the final drive, the Bearcats were staring down a 4th-down play at the Walker 6-yard line with 50 seconds remaining. Cullman running back Heath Crider was stood up by Walker's defense, but his second effort earned the Bearcats the first down by inches.

Two plays later, Cullman was in the end zone, handing Walker yet another devastating loss — their fourth defeat in a row in the series and their ninth loss in the last 10 meetings.  

Walker players were devastated after the game, as was Holladay.

After the final seconds ticked off the clock, Holladay motioned his players to the lockerroom. I agreed with the move because the slightest smack talk between players would have resulted in a full-blown brawl. Looking back, it's ironic that Holladay was trying to avoid the opportunity for players to get into a fight.

With Holladay still on the field, he was approached by Hopper, who made a point to track down the Walker coach.

The rest is history.

Holladay landed at least two punches before tackling Hopper. The next time we see Hopper, he is bruised, bloody and doing all he can to get back at Holladay.

I don't know what was said between the coaches. I just know that Holladay didn't like it.

Approaching a coach who just lost a heart-breaking game to a hated rival is probably not the way to go. Though Holladay's reaction was way over the top.

The whole thing was just one factor away from never happening.

If only Walker would have made the short field goal, or the chain crew would have gotten the down correct, or Crider would have been stopped a foot short or Hopper would have walked straight to the Cullman lockerroom — Holladay would still be coaching.

Instead, Walker missed the field goal, the chain crew got the down wrong, Crider stretched for that first down and Hopper tracked down Holladay.

Now, Holladay is out of a job and Walker's playoff hopes are in limbo as the program tries to move forward under interim coach Heath Brunner.

The whole incident is unfortunate. Those who know Holladay say this is way out of character for the coach. I believe that as well. Friday night just presented the perfect storm.

In a mere matter of seconds, Holladay went from a highly-respected coach to an out of control coach.

I won't define him by this incident, but I know a lot of people — especially those who don't know him — will.

Those largely forgotten in this whole incident are Walker's football players. I hope they are able to rally around the coaching staff and seniors. They still have a chance to turn this inauspicious beginning into a special season.

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Johnathan Bentley is the Sports Editor at the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at johnathan.bentley@mountaineagle.com.