To the editors of the Carter County Times,
My name is Justin Prince and I teach the Mass Communications program at Tolsia High School. I am writing to you in response to a post that was made on your organization’s Facebook account disparaging Tolsia Football Coach Eric Crum.
Football is an emotional and sometimes-violent game and last night’s contest between the East Carter Raiders and the Tolsia Rebels was certainly no different. I will make no effort to excuse what happened between the two teams with about eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. I will try, however to give some perspective on the unfortunate events that unfolded as well as provide some insight into the character of Coach Crum.
First, let me start with the incident itself. As most know by now a melee between the two teams transpired following a hard run by an East Carter running back. As the player was fighting for the end zone, a Tolsia player was trying to hold him up and strip the ball. At this point, the Raiders were up 21-7 and the Rebels were desperate to create a stop. Eventually, the Tolsia player does get the ball free from the East Carter player’s possession, as the ball lays on the ground the two players who were initially in contact with one another (the Tolsia defender and the East Carter Running Back) tumbled to the ground out of bounds. The whistle blows and the referee signals that East Carter had crossed the goal line for a touchdown before the ball came out.
I can’t dispute that call, the official certainly had a better angle than I did. However, what I can say, is the whistle and signal was late. The game had already been chippy to this point with plenty of pushing and shoving following whistles and a few personal foul penalties already assessed to each team. Partially spurred by the late whistle more pushing and shoving followed the play in question as players were pinned against the fence along the sidelines, which was lined with hyped-up fans. This got more ugly as punches began to be thrown and players came off of both sidelines to enter the ruckus. One parent from East Carter even comes around the fence and gets involved himself, pushing at least one Tolsia player sending him two or three feet backward. Coaches from both schools tried to gain control over an out of control situation and eventually did.
The game resumed with four players from each team ejected for their role in the fight. During the next roughly seven minutes of the contest, chippy play continued with several hits being dangerously close to personal fouls after the play, and one was called, on East Carter. As a person who has been around the game my entire life and a person who was a certified official in the state of West Virginia for four years, I do not blame teenage players for allowing their emotions to get out of control, nor do I blame either team’s coaches. From my vantage point, it appeared both coaching staffs did their best to try and control a volatile situation. However, I do place some blame on the officials. In a game that had been testy from the opening kick and a game that already seen eight players ejected, they should have been calling a much tighter football game. That would have prevented much of what occurred last night between the players.
That’s my take on the game, not a journalistic fact, but my opinion. Now, it’s time to talk a little about Coach Crum. In the Tolsia community, you will find very few men revered as much as Eric Crum. Not just for his efforts as a football coach but as a mentor of young people. Coach Crum is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. and also serves as the carpentry teacher at Tolsia High School. Every year his students volunteer at homeless shelters in West Virginia where they not only help feed the less fortunate but also spend time with these people, to get to know them and their stories. Coach Crum holds food drives, clothing drives, and just last year his carpentry class was recognized for building tiny homes that would be donated to Stepping Stones to help house foster children that were aging out of the foster program in Wayne County, West Virginia.
This is a man of the highest character that instills not only values of hard work and dedication to his players but also instills humility and compassion in them as well. This is a man; your outlet chose to attack over an unfortunate incident during a football game, with no merit and no facts. After the game, the first words Coach Crum said to his team were “I’m disappointed.”
As a former journalist and an instructor tasked with teaching the next generation the values and ethics of quality journalism I am also disappointed but my disappointment is in the Carter County Times for their demeaning post. But, as a member of the Tolsia community and a man that knows Coach Crum personally, I’m just angry. As the East Carter coaches told their players to “be better,” last night, I am asking the Carter County Times to be better as well.