Stabbing Incident Puts Friday Night Lights on Hot Seat

If you haven’t noticed, there’s been a trickle-down effect to all the wicked divisiveness within our country these days. Even our kids are feeling it.

Folks everywhere, it seems, are just hating on one another, and the in-fighting is out of control. As I stated in last week’s Direct Rays, sports have always been our unifying get away from all the political strife this country stuffs down our throats nowadays, but things went awry across portions of Section 1 and Section 9 last Friday when, under the cover of darkness, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed to death after an Arlington High School football game. An 18-year-old former Arlington student – Nestor Ortiz-Ocampo – is sitting in a Dutchess County jail cell, charged with manslaughter after the stabbing during a large-scale, post-game brawl. Police have identified the victim as Quraan Smith, a junior at Arlington.

Police were also called to a melee at Dietz Stadium in Kingston on Friday night after the Tigers defeated visiting Saugerties, and police were also summoned to a dust-up just up the road at Hyde Park after Roosevelt fell to visiting Beacon following their football game. Other than that, we had about 30-something other Section 1 varsity football games with simple minor incidents. But the fact remains: A kid died Friday night at a high school football game in Dutchess County.

That’s a stain we can’t remove, a stain that will likely have section and state administrators convening this week. It’s a blemish that might forge a change to the high school football landscape as we know it. After dark, bad things, oftentimes, go down. School ends just before 3 p.m. and the workday for many ends between 4 and 5 p.m. most days. You give people three hours to tune up before a Friday night game and many will take advantage. Personalities change, like it or not.

These 7 p.m. Friday starts are on the clock this week. Like so many other revered rituals in our once-civil society, we might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to Friday night lights. When funding police and security for high school football games becomes an issue, taxpayers, school boards and administrators get on the same page in a hurry. When the safety of their students and the deficit in their budgets are at hand, school districts are forced to take drastic measures, which, oftentimes, are unpopular.

We can all admit: There’s nothing better for school morale than a Friday night football game, but we are supposed to put our kids first no matter what the circumstances and the recent incidents at places like Arlington are not only bad for morale but devastating to families. I’m not calling for the end of Friday night games just yet, but society might be forcing its own hand given the lay of the land these days.

There are some high-energy rivalry evening games scheduled for this weekend, including the Yonkers Force vs. the Yonkers Brave, Dobbs Ferry vs. Hastings, Pleasantville vs. Briarcliff and everywhere else where emotions can run high. Let’s leave the machismo at home and be on our best behavior – or be prepared to reap the seeds we sow.

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