NORTH RIDGEVILLE, OHIO - A true case of one side's story against the other's. Accusations about foul language and even fists flying at a youth football game. Now both sides are on the record with their account of how it all went down.
Saturday November 5 was the day all these kids in the North Ridgeville Football League have been working towards.
The Super Bowl.
Two Elyria teams, new to the league this year, did not play in the all-day tournament. Coaches and parents on opposing teams say they chose to not play the Elyria teams because of the difference in athletic ability, height, weight and age. They ultimately decided it just was not safe.
Instead of taking the field at the North Ridgeville High School stadium, the Elyria Mini Pioneers played a little pick-up game at South Park practice field. The Pioneers were scheduled to play Saturday afternoon, but parents and coaches from the opposing teams said they did not want their kids to get hurt.
“It was not about them being black or where they came from or anything like that,” said Courtney Keaton. “It was about the safety of our children."
Courtney Keaton's son plays football for the Rams of North Ridgeville. He is 10 years old and about 90 pounds.
“Those kids were just so much bigger than our boys,” said Keaton.
The Rams and the Pioneers played each other on October 29.
“Literally picked him up grabbed him by the neck,” said Keaton. Keaton says she saw a Pioneers player do that to a Rams player and that is what started the scuffle.
“This game just got out of hand,” said Erica Kara.
Erica Kara's twins play for the Pioneers. She says Rams parents yelled racial slurs at the Pioneers and a Rams assistant coach punched her son in the stomach.
“I thought the couch was just yelling at my son, how he had him by his shoulder pads,” said Kara. “It was just like a dirty sneak punch from an adult."
"There was no punch from any adult,” said Keaton. “This assistant coach or any other adult."
“He has a huge bruise there,” said Kara. “Swelling. Clear as day a fist mark a punch."
Kara says what hurt most was what she heard when her son was being put into an ambulance.
“They were clapping and telling him that is what he deserve,” said Kara. “That is what you deserve animal."
"We do not speak like that at home,” said Keaton. “We do not judge people. The parents do not speak like that."
On Saturday evening, it appeared whatever transpired was put away for a moment, so the undefeated Mini Pioneers could accept a plaque for being the Interleague Champions.
The North Ridgeville Football League Board says individual trophies will also be presented at a later date.
The Elyria Senior tackle team was the other team that did not play in the all-day tournament.
A coach on one of the teams that was supposed to play them cited the same issues about the height and weight regulations.
Brad Burton says Elyria did not do a blind draft like the rest of the North Ridgeville teams did. He also said Elyria knew from the beginning that their teams were not going to be in the Super Bowl games.
The North Ridgeville Football League Board issued a statement, saying “at no time were they suspended, removed or thrown out of the league. There was also some concern over a coach who was ejected last Saturday. According to our league rules, that individual will not be permitted to coach during this Saturday’s games. Moving forward, the NRFL will continue to run a recreational, instructional and inclusive league for the youth of North Ridgeville and it surrounding communities just as we have since 1971.”
Keaton says that an assistant coach was ejecting for yelling things, but he did not yell racial slurs.
The North Ridgeville Police Department is still investigating and reviewing video.
On Friday, a captain with the department said he did not talk to anyone who could confirm the allegations that an assistant coach punching the Pioneers player.