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High School Football Players Who Targeted Referee Suspended, Could Face Criminal Charges

The ref is seen standing in the moment prior to impact

The ref is seen standing in the moment prior to impact

Over the weekend two high school players from San Antonio became national news after forgoing the action on the field and launching their own attack on an unsuspecting referee. The YouTube video of the incident has already amassed over seven million views.

Both defensive backs at John James High School, Victor Rojas and Mike Moreno clearly coordinated the assault on Robert Watts, an umpire who had ejected two of their teammates earlier in the game. One is seen charging Watts from behind, knocking him to the ground as the other spears him with his helmet.

Following the ugly display of violence, there must have been some confusion on the field because, while two players were immediately ejected, one of them was defensive back Trenton Hobdy. Moreno remained in the game and was penalized late for hitting the opposing “quarterback, who had taken a knee to run out the clock.”

[Read more in the Austin American-Statesman]

The actions of Rojas and Moreno were widely (and harshly) condemned. “I’ve only been doing this since 1978, but I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Wayne Elliott, executive secretary of the Austin Football Official Association. “When I saw it for the first time, I’m thinking this is a crime. … The first thing we want is that those two kids never play football again.”

Fox’s officiating guru Mike Pereira echoed that sentiment. “It’s the most despicable act I’ve ever seen on a football field,” Pereira said. “It’s premeditated, and it’s something that needs to be dealt with severely. … They have suspended the two players involved. That’s not enough. Criminal charges need to come—without question.“

A growing consensus is good news for Watts, who has made it clear he wants to press charges. Although Rojas and Moreno have been kicked off the football team and suspended from school, the police investigation is expected to take at least a week to complete. The school is treating the incident as an assault on a school official, which could result in expulsion.

But that’s not the end of this story, unfortunately. The conduct of a 29-year-old assistant coach that may have directly contributed to the actions of Rojas and Moreno is also under review. Mack Breed has been “placed on administrative leave for allegedly telling players that the referee ‘needs to pay for cheating us.’”

If proven true, Breed’s comments all but nullify the accused player’s claim that the hit on Watts was in retaliation for a racial slur they alleged he directed at them. The Texas University Interscholastic League will ultimately decide which, if either, of the retribution claims have merit.

In the meantime, should police decide to pursue the case, Rojas and Moreno would likely be charged with misdemeanor assault.

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