La Cañada High officials release video, photo of alleged face-rubbing incident

La Canada football player Angel Salazar has a foreign substance flushed off his face by a trainer during a game against Salesian on Sept. 4.

La Canada football player Angel Salazar has a foreign substance flushed off his face by a trainer during a game against Salesian on Sept. 4.

(Paul Chamberlain / La Cañada High)

La Cañada High on Thursday released video and a photo from its Sept. 4 football game against Los Angeles Salesian in which school officials allege a Salesian player rubbed a heat-rub substance into the face of a La Cañada player.

The video appears to show a Salesian player sticking his hand under the facemask of La Cañada junior Angel Salazar at the conclusion of a play. The photo shows a trainer with Salazar on the sideline, washing a white substance away from Salazar’s face and neck.

Kristina Kalb, La Cañada’s athletic director, said the school had complained to the CIF Southern Section, the governing body over both schools, about how the incident was handled. “The refs did not investigate,” Kalb said. “I had a player who had been injured and harmed.”

Ryan Zerbel, La Cañada’s head football coach, said Salazar complained immediately to a game official and then came to his team’s sideline, pointing to his face. Zerbel said the substance found on Salazar’s face smelled like a heating cream and caused a burning sensation.


“It was just a cheat shot by the other team,” Salazar said last week. “I didn’t really know what was going on until the kid put his hand [inside Salazar’s helmet] and rubbed IcyHot in my eyes.”

Kalb said La Cañada complained to Salesian officials but received no apology and no indication that any punitive action was taken against any player. The player in question took part in Salesian’s victory a week later against El Cajon Christian. However, he did not play in Thursday night’s game against Los Angeles Loyola.

Salesian Principal Alex Chacon said, “My only comment is we take the allegation very seriously. We investigated the matter and submitted our findings to the CIF.”

The Southern Section has no authority to intercede in the matter because no ejection took place, a spokesman for the section said.

Salazar was taken to an urgent care medical office as a precaution after the game, his mother, Leslie Bess, said. He played last week against Glendale.

“As a parent, when we’re in the stands, you’re constantly watching your kid play because they can be seriously injured,” she said. “When this happened, I saw my son stand up and push someone back and walk to the sideline hunched over.

“I thought the worst possible, that he was struck with a sharp object. I never imagined it could be some cream. I just wanted to be with him.”

Teena Vasquez, La Cañada’s trainer, worked to remove the substance from Salazar. “She literally flushed his face,” Kalb said.


The incident occurred in the third quarter of a 27-0 Salesian victory. The game was briefly halted as La Cañada sought to alert game officials.

Bess said she called Salesian last week seeking to speak to the principal but did not receive a return phone call. Bess said she has spoken with law enforcement about filing a criminal complaint.

Twitter: @LATSondheimer