Following Hamilton's win over Chandler on Friday night, there was a short altercation between Huskies coach Steve Belles and Wolves assistant coach Eric Richardson in the postgame handshake line.
According to both sides, the Chandler staff was upset because the Hamilton students ran on the field to celebrate the victory. Belles thought the school should be able to enjoy it and took exception to Chandler's coaches yelling at the kids. In Belles' view, Chandler's students would have stormed the field with a victory, and his team also endured it when Mountain Pointe beat Hamilton in the season opener.
"It can't be one-sided," Belles said Saturday. "We're not supposed to get excited for the big one? If our kids do it, it’s not OK? I don’t understand that kids can’t get excited about their high school. That’s what I told (Chandler coach) Shaun (Aguano) after the game."
The arguing between Belles and the Chandler assistants became heated, with Richardson putting his hand on Belles, who responded by pushing him away. Belles initially said he responded by shoving Richardson, but later said he just pushed Richardson's hand away.
Aguano and Richardson could not be reached for comment.
In my view, it's an important distinction.
If neither Richardson nor Belles pushed each other, it's a run-of-the-mill, heat-of-the-moment altercation. Emotions run high, especially in rivalry games, and disagreements are common.
However, if there was a shoving match going on, it crosses the line.
Think about it: If either coach pushed a referee or a player, there would be outrage. What if they shoved a parent, a fan or an announcer? Just because two coaches were at the center of the controversy shouldn't change our reaction.
Belles said he didn't consider the confrontation a physical one because there weren't any punches thrown, harkening back to the fistfights he knew growing up.
But this is a little different scenario. These coaches want badly to win, and since they are at the highest level of high school football, there is a lot of pressure to do so.
However, at their core, they are still leaders of impressionable high school kids, students who hang on their words and actions. Two anonymous kids getting in a fight is much different than two high-profile coaches shoving each other in front of thousands of onlookers.
Football is a violent game and there is a certain machismo factor prevalent at many schools. But still, how can they scream at their kids for getting retaliatory personal foul calls on the field if they can't control those same emotions in the postgame handshake line?
Belles said he talked to Aguano on Saturday morning and hashed out the incident, which is great to hear, and hopefully it's further addressed in both locker rooms and over with.
Belles asked rhetorically if this would have gotten the same type of attention at a school like Tuba City. Probably not, because only a select few would have seen it. But does that matter? Would those coaches have been any less complicit?
Belles said repeatedly that I couldn't understand his position without being in his shoes. He's right in that I don't know the pressure he's under and the entire history between the coaches at these schools.
But despite the demands, this is still high school football, and when your audience is mostly teenagers, turning the other cheek is that much more important.
Both sides lost sight of that.