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School’s football coach is attacked

Knoll and Sondheimer are Times staff writers.

An Eagle Rock High School football coach allegedly was assaulted by a disgruntled former player who graduated last year, officials said Friday.

It was the latest episode in a series of conflicts related to the firing of the previous head coach.

Coach Johnny Lopez was bending down to pick up a ball when a young man struck him from behind during practice Thursday afternoon, witnesses told school Principal Salvador Velasco.

Lopez, who used his walkie-talkie to alert school officials, suffered minor injuries, Velasco said.

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The school canceled Friday’s game against Belmont High School, mainly because officials said too few students had practiced.

Velasco did not reveal the name of the alleged attacker, but said he believed him to be a former student who had played football for the Eagles.

“This person came into one of our offices [Thursday afternoon] upset about his former coach. He was . . . told to leave the campus,” Velasco said.

Reached Friday, Lopez said: “I’m kinda like on pain pills. I really don’t want to talk to anybody.”

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The incident appeared to be related to a controversy that erupted earlier this year when hundreds of students circulated a petition and held a protest in response to the firing of former football coach Jerry Chou.

Velasco has maintained that Chou wanted to resign but changed his mind a few days later, when it was too late. Since then, Chou’s supporters have been outspoken about their dislike of Lopez, and some players refused to participate in practice.

Chou, who remains at the school as a physical education teacher, said he does not condone the students’ actions.

“It’s sad, but kids make bad decisions,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of frustration and anger still going on at this school.”

Velasco said the decision to forfeit Friday’s football game against Belmont High was not because of the assault. “Half of the team being on the bleachers instead of practicing made it clear to me it wasn’t safe for them to play,” he said.

Belmont football coach Rob Levy said he was disappointed.

“It was our last home game,” he said. “You don’t want to win a game on forfeit.”

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corina.knoll@latimes.com

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com


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