After starting the season 11-0, the South Georgia Noles lose their second-round playoff game Saturday to the Henry County Horsemen.
DAWSON --- A hard-fought football game turned into "chaos" Saturday night on the Terrell County High School field.
A first-round playoff game in the Gridiron Developmental Football League between the South Georgia Noles and the Georgia Jets erupted into a brawl, causing the game to be rescheduled for Saturday.
The incident, which GDFL President Charles Thompson called "unacceptable," prompted the league to hand down fines to several Jets players.
The brawl started in the fourth quarter when officials spoke to both sidelines about quieting trash talk that had been escalating throughout the game.
"There was so much trash talking and personal fouls going on, that at the beginning of the fourth quarter the refs warned both teams that if there was any more trash talking then players would be thrown out of the game," Noles coach Ivory Williams told The Herald on Sunday evening. "At that point, we were under the impression that the game was tied at 7-7."
And so were the Jets, who scored a first quarter touchdown and, by all indications, hit the ensuing extra point. However, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, an official told the Jets sideline that they had just six points.
With no working scoreboard at the field, the Jets' sideline insisted they had seven points and began arguing with the officials, Williams said.
"And then all chaos broke out," said Williams, who is trying to lead his undefeated and sixth-ranked semipro football team to a GDFL championship.
"We were on a knee on our sideline watching it. We were looking at each other thinking this is something you see on TV."
The scuffle, which lasted around 15 minutes, involved at least two officials and several members of the Jets, who were later fined after league officials reviewed the tape.
"Of course I was disappointed to hear that the game ended in such a way," Thompson told The Herald in a phone interview Sunday. "Especially with two teams that have done such a good job on the field. It was really unacceptable."
Noles player Courtney Love said no punches were thrown during the incident, just "a lot of pushing and shoving." And once the police showed up to the field, cooler heads were beginning to prevail.
Noles quarterback Marcus Brooks, a Macon native who played for Fort Valley State and Shaw University (N.C.), was on his own sideline when the fight broke out.
"We were not going to get involved and get kicked out of the league for nothing that has to do with us," Brooks said. "We hate to see that going down, but we weren't the ones that needed to go break it up."
A few Noles players wandered close to the fight with the idea of breaking it up, but Williams said he quickly sent his players back to their own sideline.
When the scuffle finally ended, the officials ruled that the Noles won by forfeit and would advance to the next round of the playoffs. After Thompson and the league were made aware of the situation, they ruled that the game would be completely replayed next Saturday with a new set of officials.
"I understand safety is one of the things we talk about a lot, but we felt like the game should have resumed after a cooling off period to get a definite outcome," Thompson said.
"If I have to put the blame anywhere, the officials lost control of the game. I don't think we will be using those officials again," Thompson continued. "Both teams have been sanctioned and some of the Jets players have been fined for their roles and actions in this incident. We decided as a league that in the best interest of what we are doing and to be fair to both organizations, we would replay the game rather than ruling one way or the other.
"The officials needed to take charge of the game. I think the officials didn't do what was needed, and they allowed it to go beyond their control. From that point on it was a downward spiral."
The referees were getting the brunt of the blame from the league because the film shows that the extra point in the first quarter -- which would have given the Jets their seventh point -- was actually good. Williams also noted that the referees signaled a good extra point at the time.
"We were trying to tell them that the kick was good and it should be 7-7," said Brooks, who threw a 60-yard pass to teammate Marcus Nelson for the Noles' lone score. "The referees were confused. We kicked a field goal later in the game and missed. With the scoreboard not working, they were probably thinking that the missed field goal was the missed extra point."
The league later contacted both teams with a choice to either replay the game Saturday or to flip a coin to decide who moves on to the second round. The Noles unanimously wanted to replay the game.
"I would rather replay the game than have a coin flip," said Williams, who also believed his team had the momentum in the fourth quarter before the game was called.
"But I still feel like we are being punished because the officials couldn't keep their composure. We talk to our players all the time about having good composure and how to carry yourself."
The winner of Saturday's rematch will play the fourth-ranked Henry County (Ga.) Horsemen, who are the top seed in the Xtreme Conference.