Tempers flared on the Newberry sideline and a man was detained by Union County Sheriff’s Office (UCSO) deputies Friday evening in Lake Butler.
The incident occurred with 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter of the Newberry at Union County football game, when a man on Newberry’s sideline was asked to leave by referees. When the man refused, UCSO deputies were called over to escort him from the field.
“The refs had warned him at some point and then ejected him from the game,” UCSO Capt. Lyn Williams said in a phone interview. “I don’t know if he was an assistant coach, but the Newberry head coach [Ed Johnson] said [the man ejected] needed to leave.”
Deputies attempted to escort him off the sidelines, but “he refused to go, and it required him to be handcuffed and taken out of the stadium,” Williams said. “And that’s when the [Newberry] crowd and players turned on us.”
Adults from the Newberry stands poured onto the sidelines with a handful of people screaming at the deputies.
That is when all law enforcement officers rushed onto the field, including horse-mounted security, to defuse the escalating situation. The referees and deputies made the decision to end the game at that point, which Union County led 45-13.
“We put our training into action and funneled everyone out a side gate and escorted them off the field,” Williams said. “We didn’t have to use force or any chemical agents.”
A handful of adults continued to yell at deputies before exiting the field, some with their phones recording everything happening.
“They were trying to provoke us, but we were prepared and trained for that,” Williams said. “We didn’t lay hands on anyone else, otherwise it could have been worse.”
Williams said the man who was detained calmed down and apologized once away from the sideline and he was released to the City of Alachua police chief, who was at the contest.
The last time a fan-involved incident like this occurred at a Union County football game was in 2004 against Dixie County, said Williams, who has been with UCSO for 30 years.
“I was there for that too,” he said.
Newberry head coach Ed Johnson declined a request for comment from Mainstreet Daily News.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated.