Sporting events should inspire support, sportsmanship, and competitiveness in the school community—not disrupt them. And when the Haverford School walked away with a victory against Archbishop Wood High School, Haverford fans let go of most of the competitive spirit maintained by the school’s student section and headed towards the parking lot to celebrate the 4-0 record. For three students and multiple faculty members, this wasn’t the case.
William Tennent High School hosted the game, which was filled with competitive banter between the opposing student sections. All was well for the majority of the game until the first arrival of conflict: a crowd of students from another school trying to enter the Haverford student section.
Haverford students told them to leave, and eventually, parents were forced to get involved in order to get the unknown students out and have things return to normal.
That was the “first big issue” according to one fan in the Haverford student section. Police officers already on the scene supervising the sporting event warned students to stay away from both Haverford and Archbishop Wood’s student sections.
Haverford then went on to beat Archbishop Wood by 24 points. The Haverford student section congratulated their players, the players celebrated their big win, and the fans began to exit the William Tennent field.
Then, while walking back to their car from the football game, Fourth Formers Michael Crutchlow and Finn Kelly were assaulted by several unidentified individuals, a group of five-to-eight teenagers.
“It took me by surprise,” Kelly said. “I’d seen them walking up, but I didn’t think they would do anything, though.”
As the individuals walked towards the car, they asked Kelly and Crutchlow if they were from Haverford, and before they could respond, the teenagers had rallied around the car.
“They came in from the front first,” Crutchlow said. “As Finn tried to open his door and get in, they stopped it from opening, and slammed it shut.” That was when the boys in hoodies began to start physically assaulting both students. “I went up and tried to stop them, but then they started to swing at me,” Crutchlow said.
They were pushed, thrown to the ground, and punched several times, until Finn Kelly’s brother, Sixth Former Colin Kelly who was driving them home, quickly slammed on the horn to scare the attackers into running away.
“They just ran in and sprinted off immediately,” Crutchlow said.
Thankfully, faculty and staff members were still at the game. Lower School Music teachers Mr. and Mrs. Duane and Valerie Case didn’t see the incident unfold, but saw the two boys and reacted quickly to take them, both dazed and injured, to Assistant Director of Athletics and Athletic Trainer Mr. Bill Wardle. While getting ready to leave, he had turned his car around to get the boys medical attention after being notified by Colin Kelly.
“There was a lot of blood and worry that there may be a head injury. Our first thought was to get the boys who were injured to safety,” Mrs. Case said.
All three boys and Mr. and Mrs. Case walked across the football field to find Mr. Wardle, who then treated them and made sure that the boys were alright to drive home. Several faculty members on the scene and a few students, including Fifth Former Dalton Feild, were willing to file a police report.
Unfortunately, the assaulters acted in the dark, outside, in a parking lot without security cameras, making it difficult for officers to identify them.
“They were all wearing different things, but it was pretty dark, probably around five to eight of them,” Feild, who happened to be in the parking lot when the assault occurred, said. “We had to talk to the police about the situation, but there isn’t much they can do.”
Some suspect that the same students who were kicked out of the Haverford student section might have been frustrated and looking to target anyone from the Haverford community.
The aftermath of the incident? A concussion to Michael Crutchlow, a broken nose to Finn Kelly, and, strangely, an obscure carving of the letters reading “JV” near the fuel cap of Colin Kelly’s car. When asked about when the group of students, who had so quickly entered and left the scene, found time to key what may have been one of the individual’s initials into his car, Colin was unsure.
“I don’t know if it happened at the same time [as the assault],” Colin said. “They might have come back to the car after we left to get Mr. Wardle.”
What can be done to prevent a situation like this? Well, the answer is more difficult than one might think. Athletic Director Mr. Michael Murphy explained that a situation like this is rare and difficult to prevent.
Let’s focus our fans on supporting our boys and not getting involved with things that are back and forthMr. Mike Murphy
“This is something we worry about all the time,” Mr. Murphy said. “If you look at sporting events in general, sometimes things are escalating from what should be sporting behaviors to physical altercations.”
A big part of preventing similar incidents is the idea and mentality that he has encouraged each year: cheering for your team, not against the other team.
“Let’s focus our fans on our team,” Mr. Murphy said. “Let’s focus our fans on supporting our boys and not getting involved with things that are back and forth.”
Ignoring an opposing team trying to initiate conflict between fans is also an important part of promoting a brotherly community and engaging in the primary purpose of Haverford sporting events.
“The contests fit into the overall purpose of the athletic program—which is to help educate and teach young men the values of sportsmanship, competitiveness, and being a valuable team member,” Mr. Murphy said.
And ultimately, the way that faculty and students were there to support Finn Kelly and Crutchlow attests to the community’s strength.
Head of School Mr. Tyler Casertano was impressed with how the community reacted.
“I’m proud of the way that the boys have responded,” Mr. Casertano said. “I’m proud of the guys both caring for themselves, and even going to the soccer game the next day.”
The isolated incident isn’t a common occurrence, and the school already thinks through potential challenges at away contests.
“Coach Murphy works with coaches and other athletic directors to set up games where there is security, and there is an environment where we have every reason to believe you’re going to be safe, not just as players, but also as spectators,” Mr. Casertano said. “Obviously, if this were part of a pattern, then I think the school would take a different approach, and wouldn’t want to put [the students] in that situation.”
Making a drastic change to tradition wouldn’t make sense, especially considering the rarity of such events.
And while the incident is unfortunate, the school can connect it to the themes the school has promoted in the school year’s first few months.
“We’ve talked a lot this year about the importance of relationships and how those relationships drive the sense of community, togetherness, brotherhood, and belonging that we hope you feel here,” Mr. Casertano said. “I hope you guys extend yourselves to take care of each other and look out for each other—especially in moments where you think people might be at risk.”
Being aware of your surroundings and being supportive of one another is an important part of the Haverford culture, on and off the field. The decisions made by the community after the incident demonstrate an ability to rally together to support some of the school’s own.