Texas high school team disqualified from football playoffs after player hits referee

Referee Fred Gracia falls to the turf after being charged by Edinburg's Emmanuel Duron on Dec. 3 in Edinburg, Texas.
Referee Fred Gracia falls to the turf after being charged by Edinburg’s Emmanuel Duron on Dec. 3 in Edinburg, Texas.
(Joel Martinez / The Monitor via Associated Press)

A high school football team in Texas was disqualified from the playoffs Friday after a player charged from the sidelines and into a referee, knocking the 58-year-old man to the ground, during a game Thursday night.

According to the Monitor newspaper of McAllen, Texas, Edinburg High senior defensive lineman Emmanuel Duron was arrested and charged with Class A assault, with bond set at $10,000.

The incident occurred during the second quarter of the Cougars’ playoff-clinching victory over Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High. Referee Fred Gracia ejected Duron after the 2019 District 31-6A defensive player of the year received two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Seconds later, Duron raced back onto the field, heading directly toward Gracia. At least one Edinburg player and a staff member chased Duron, but they were unable to prevent him from blindsiding Gracia at full speed.

Duron was escorted out of the stadium by four police officers working security for the game, the Monitor reported.


Gracia got up on his own and was helped to an ambulance outside the stadium. According to the Monitor, the 27-year veteran of the Texas Assn. of Sports Officials was evaluated for concussion-like symptoms and a possible shoulder injury and did not return.

After the game, Edinburg coach JJ Lejia told the Monitor he could not comment on the incident and instead wanted to focus on his team’s return to the postseason after a one-year absence.

“I want this [moment] to be about our program and all the other kids we had on the field tonight,” he said.

Omar Sahagun and his teammate helped move 600 boxes of food to be distributed in the community, getting a workout at the same time. It’s COVID-era football.

Dec. 4, 2020

Unfortunately for the coach and his team, their playoff run ended before it started with an announcement Friday from the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.

“The district has decided to remove the Edinburg High School football team from the playoffs after an unexpected incident involving a student that occurred during a football game on December 3, 2020,” the district stated. “We extend a sincere apology to the referee and his family. On behalf of the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees and administration, we apologize to the athletes, staff, and our school community.

“We will take the appropriate disciplinary action once we understand the facts and circumstances underlining this incident. The district takes these matters very seriously; however, we cannot comment further on a pending investigation.”