Late in the fourth quarter, with the hometown Huskers trailing the unbeaten Rams 66-0 on the scoreboard, a Langley fan came down from the stands and parked behind the Husker bench.
“I do know an opposing fan came down to our bench and was making quite a ruckus and it was quite a scene,” Huskers head coach Bob Reist confirmed. “It was a challenge to disengage our guys from that and I think our staff did a good job of getting our guys away from what was certainly a problem from opposing fans.”
Chilliwack’s team used to set up on the opposite side of the field, away from the fans but they’re now on the seating side, separated only by a four foot high chain link fence.
Easy access for a Langley supporter who had thoughts she wanted to express.
“Certainly there was a commotion on the sidelines behind us,” Reist said. “Our focus as coaches was on the game at hand and trying to get our guys away from that ruckus, and trying to keep them focused on the game.
Already frustrated by the one-sided game, and the antics of a Rams foe that kept chucking long bombs and booting short kicks with a sixty six point lead, the Husker players weren’t in the mood to endure the heckler.
While Reist encouraged his team to keep its focus on the field, one player reportedly gave the antagonist a squirt with a water bottle.
Up in the stands, a group of Langley fans was behaving just as badly, prompting visits from Huskers president Brenda Currie and vice president Jean Hincks.
Hincks said the fans were confrontational and wouldn’t leave, so police were called.
The game was ended early and the teams were ushered off the field.
“This was an isolated incident and we wanted to make sure we had enough security in case anything escalated,” Hincks explained. “We have never called the police to a game before and hopefully won’t ever have to in the future.”
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Mike Rail confirmed police were called to the stadium around 9 p.m. Saturday night.
“A caller said there were four females in the stands causing problems and security was trying to remove them,” he noted. “As our officers were en-route we were told the players were getting worked up and there might be a riot. By the time we attended, people were leaving the stadium and the situation had been settled down. Our officers remained in the area until the majority of fans had left.
“There were no assaults or injuries.”
Currie said the Langley fans brought their own ‘beverages’ into the stadium and she had a pile of empties to prove it. She insisted the beer garden the team unveiled this year did not cause the problem, adding that home games next season will see bags and purses checked at the gate to make sure no outside alcohol is coming into the venue.
Reist said the bench layout was a topic of conversation earlier this season, with the coach wanting the Huskers to be allowed to use the other side of the field.
“But unfortunately the league stepped in and dictated that if we’re going to be on the other side of the field we have to share it,” Reist said. “I’m not aware of any other team that has to do that, and it seems crazy to me because it takes away any kind of home field advantage.
“We’re certainly not a fan of sharing a sideline with another team, because that’s been shown in the past to be a problem. So it looks like we stay where we are, and having the home fans behind us can be a good thing.”
As for the Rams running up the score, Reist said it falls to his team to stop that sort of thing on the field.
“It wouldn’t be my approach in the same situation, but I’m going to knock anybody for how they approach a football game, and at the end of the day it’s on us to make stops,” he said. “If that’s who they (Langley) want to be, that’s who they’re going to be and it’s on us to make the stops.”
“I’m not going to sit here and cry poor us. They have every right to do what they want to do, and I’m not the head coach of the Langley Rams.”
Dana Matheson is the president of the Rams. He wasn’t at the game, but he said if it was a Langley fan who came down to the Husker bench, that is unacceptable.
“It’s unfortunate that stuff like this does happen, and we’ve had issues like this happen in our park in the past,” he said. “When the Victoria came to town, there was one time when we had to call police. What we’ve done is we hire lots of security and we put them behind the team’s bench and on the track. We make lots of announcements through the game to let people know there is absolutely no way, shape or form that you can approach the bench or come on the track.
“And I did read comments about outside liquor. I can say that at our field we have security checking all bags for weapons as well as any outside liquor. We shut down our own liquor sales in the third quarter and turn people away that appear to be intoxicated.
“So my comment would be that hopefully the Huskers organization learns from this and takes some measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.”
BC Football Conference spokesperson Tyler McLaren said the incident was ‘sad and embarrassing.’
“Especially in front of kids and with children in close proximity,” he said. “On a day when a BCFC record was set by Langley’s Andrew Pocrnic and several Huskers were playing their last junior game at home, they should be ashamed of themselves.”
McLaren said the league will review what happened and decide if action needs to be taken, but one thing is for certain. The bench situation at Exhibition Stadium will be changing next season.
“I think it’s safe to assume that both teams moving forward will be on the far side,” McLaren said. “It’s unfortunate that one incident over a long period of time forces us to take that step, but ultimately we have to protect the people on the benches. Whether it’s a home or visiting team, sometimes we have to save them from themselves and make a decision in the best interests of safety.
“Obviously that’ll create a dynamic where the benches of two teams are in close proximity, but the alternative is players and bench staff at risk because of silliness from the stands.”