By Matt Wiley
It turns out that naming a high school basketball rivalry game the “War on 54” may have been a decision that was taken too literally, after several fights broke out involving students after the boys basketball game between Wiregrass Ranch High (WRH, located off Mansfield Blvd.) and Wesley Chapel High (WCH, located on Wells Rd.) on January 30.
According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), following the WRH Bulls boys basketball team’s 64-56 home loss to the WCH Wildcats, numerous fights erupted in the parking lot.
“There were several ‘balls’ of fights,” says PCSO spokesperson Melanie Snow. “One fight would get broken up and another would break out nearby.”
So far, the Pasco County School District (PCSD) is in the process of disciplining four WRH students, says PCSD spokesperson Linda Cobbe, adding that it appears that the fights were unrelated to the rivalry and were about issues between students at the school. Because the altercation broke out on school grounds and during a school-sponsored function, Cobbe says the students involved likely will receive 10-day suspensions.
Snow says that many spectators were not able to get into the gymnasium toward the end of the game, which also could have raised tensions outside. Cobbe says that although people were not being allowed in, the gym was still slightly below capacity and not oversold.
“We’re looking at videos from students on social media to try to figure out how it all started, but so far there haven’t been any arrests or any charges filed,” Snow says.
PCSO is interviewing anyone whose name comes up in the investigation and asking students to come forward with any videos from their cell phones that could help identifying those involved.
“We’ve heard that it wasn’t about issues between our schools,” says WCH principal Carrin Nettles. “We have a spirited rivalry (with WRH) that attracts big crowds, but everyone’s behavior was fine during the game. It’s always a shame when other situations like this one have to cloud that rivalry.”
WRH principal Robyn White could not be reached for comment.