It should have been the perfect ending to a festive Friday night at Zemp Stadium. A Camden High School (CHS) Bulldog football victory over once-beaten Dreher, which put them in a four-way tie atop the Region 4-AAA standings, came after a pre-game and halftime tribute to the school’s 1964 AAA state championship team.
Then, in the post-game, things became ugly.
In what is the usual post-game handshake between players from the two competing teams, things got completely out of control and turned into a full-scale brawl which led to, at least, CHS Principal Dan Matthews and two coaches sustaining injuries in trying to help calm the situation.
The scene was caught on tape by the CHS film crew and was to be brought to South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) Director Jerome Singleton, who will take necessary measures against the offending parties.
Well after the contest and the mayhem was over, Camden football coaches and a Camden Police Department (CPD) officer watched the entire episode play out on laptop computers and later, a television screen in coach’s office.
What appeared to take place in the line is a Dreher player flashing a signal on, at least, three occasions. When what appeared to be Camden tailback Kendrice Slater arrived near the player in question, several of the Dreher players turned back and formed a circle around and started beating at least Slater and possibly other Bulldog players. That led to the fight being taken in all different directions.
A Dreher assistant coach, who was following his team’s players toward the end of the line, ordered them to head back toward the locker room and was trying to escort one of the players back to the locker room. Instead, the video shows the player peeling back from the coach and joining in the melee.
Soon after, CPD officers, coaches from both sides, CHS and Kershaw County School District office administrators try to quell a fight which had spread across the field.
In the CHS locker room, two police officers were brought in to take down an account from one of the Bulldog players. One account of the situation was given by a witness who said he heard the words “squad up,” meaning get ready to fight, by at least one Dreher player seconds prior to the altercation.
Among the injured was Matthews who, presumably, was hit by a player, knocking off Matthews’ glasses while leaving a nasty, bloody gash above and around his left eye. He, reportedly, later went to KershawHealth and received stitches.
Two Camden assistant coaches, Casey Faulkenberry and Kelvin Whitener, also came back to the CHS locker room with injuries; Faulkenberry with a large welt under his right eye and Whitener took a helmet to his right hand which had swelled up.
“We’ll watch the video and see what happens,” Camden High Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Jimmy Neal said before heading back to the school’s football office to watch the tape of the game and the post-game fight when asked what sanctions might come from the brawl. “There’s a lot of moving parts involved; you know who started it and who instigated it.”
Contacted late Saturday morning, CPD Chief Joe Floyd said his department was involved in the matter. Floyd said while the SCHSL will conduct its own investigation and dole out any necessary punishment for what happened during and after the game which involved players and/or coaches, the CPD is conducting its own investigation.
“From my standpoint,” Floyd said, “we are looking for any criminal conduct -- not only individual players, but civilians. We are looking at that aspect, as well.”
The CPD, by using video enhancement software, can obtain a more detailed look at what went on in the moments leading up to the melee than can be seen just by viewing the original game film.
According to SCHSL rules, as per the organization’s Website, “Any post game unsportsmanlike activities that involve athletes, coaches and/or other school personnel while at the playing area” is subject to discipline by the HSL.
Degrees of discipline include, as per the SCHSL website and in order of appearance, include:
• Restrictive Probation: A team may compete in regularly scheduled contests but may not play in a jamboree, an invitational event or for a region or state championship.
• Suspension: A suspended school may not compete against another member school or a school in another state whose association is a member of the National Federation of State High School Associations.
• Fine: May be levied in addition to other disciplines and may range from $50 to $2,500 for each violation.
• Appeals: A school that has been placed on probation or had a program suspended during the sport season, must appeal within 10 working days. If the suspension or probation occurs during the last contest of the season, the appeal may be made prior to the beginning of the sport the next season.
Neal reported the event to the SCHSL on Saturday. As of about 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Neal said he had not heard back from any SCHSL official.