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Texas high school football has produced some of the game’s greatest players. Drew Brees, Adrian Peterson, and Mike Evans are just a few names of Texas high school players currently playing in the NFL. On Thursday night, Texas high school football made headlines, but it wasn’t for the spectacular play of any one individual. Instead, it was for a disturbing unsportsmanlike moment when one player violently attacked a referee during the middle of the game.  

Texas high school football playoff berth on the line

Texas high school football
Texas high school football was the scene of an ugly incident when a player attacked a referee. | Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

In this pandemic-stricken season, most Texas high school football teams have managed to navigate the season with minimal stoppages. December has arrived and it’s the start of the playoffs.

For the Edinburg High Bobcats and PSJA High Bears, there was a lot riding on the line in the 6A matchup Thursday night. The winner would advance to the playoffs. The loser would be done for the season. 

In a hard-fought contest, Edinburg had too much offensive firepower and won 35-21 to advance to the first round of the 6A Texas high school football playoffs.

Texas high school football player attacks referee

Unfortunately, Edinburg’s excitement following the victory was tempered by a disturbing first-half incident that left fans, players, and coaches from both teams in shock. Early in the second quarter, officials flagged Edinburg’s star defensive player Emmanuel Duron for shoving a PSJA offensive lineman to the ground and trying to tackle the opposing quarterback after the play had been blown dead.

After Duron and referee Fred Gracia exchanged words, and the player had been hit with back-to-back unsportsmanlike penalties, Gracia ejected Duron from the game. That should have been the end of it. It wasn’t. 

Duron, who led the team in tackles (102) and sacks (eight), was escorted to the sidelines by one of his coaches. Moments later, an angered Duron charged back on to the field, making a beeline straight for Gracia. 

Running full speed, Duron forcefully slammed into Gracia, knocking the 58-year-old official off of his feet flying backward, where he landed hard on the turf. Gracia, who is a 27-year veteran official, was taken to an ambulance outside and evaluated for a shoulder injury and concussion-like symptoms. He did not return to the game.

Player had previous issue with officials in another sport

After Emmanuel Duron left the field a second time, he was escorted out of the stadium by the Edinburg CISD police officers working security for the game. He was not handcuffed but removed from the premises and did not return.

Sadly, this wasn’t Duron’s first run-in with a sports official. According to The Monitor, Duron is a talented athlete in multiple sports. Last season, he was The Monitor’s All-Area Boys Wrestler of the Year. He also played for the Edinburg soccer team.

According to the paper, it was with the soccer team during the 2019-20 season, where Duron was suspended for the remainder of the season following a similar incident that occurred during a match with crosstown rival Edinburg Vela.

Team pulled from high school playoffs    

While Edinburg was scheduled to advance to the Texas high school playoffs with its 35-21 win over PSJA, Edinburg CISD officials decided to remove the Bobcats from the playoffs following the incident according to a district statement.

“The district has decided to remove the Edinburg High School football team from the playoffs after an unexpected incident involving a student that occurred during a football game on December 3, 2020,” the statement read. “We extend a sincere apology to the referee and his family. On behalf of the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees and administration, we apologize to the athletes, staff, and our school community.”

The district said “it takes these matters very seriously” and there was a pending investigation. Upon its completion, the statement indicated the district would take appropriate disciplinary action.


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