DHS officials nix John Essex because of logistics

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2004

John Essex High School and Demopolis High School are separated by just three miles and whenever the two schools have ever come together for a little friendly sports competition the fans have always come out in full support. But this year there was no game and there may not be another if the two schools can’t find a meeting ground.

Saturday night was originally scheduled to be the first of two basketball games of the season between these two schools, but it was not to be and there are many, including John Essex Principal Loretta McCoy that doesn’t know why.

“I really still don’t know why they canceled the game. All I know is that there will not be any basketball games played this season between Demopolis High School and John Essex High School,” McCoy said

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After an almost 12 year absence from athletic competition with each other, the two schools decided two years ago to rebuild their relationship and began competing again in basketball.

After all, there never was really any bad blood between the two schools.

The long absence of play was brought about from too many rival games gone amuck, where fans became involved in very heated and sometimes very physical conversations with one another.

And at that time, then Marengo County Superintendent Marcus Walters along with Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Wesley Hill thought it be best that there be a cooling off period between DHS and any potentially rival Marengo County Schools.

But that was long ago and times have surly changed, or have they?

Last week Demopolis City School officials decided that it was in the best interest of Demopolis High School to cancel either any and all basketball games scheduled for this season with John Essex or at least cancel any games scheduled to be played in Jefferson.

According to Demopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Wesley Hill, the size of the gym at smaller schools like John Essex is not conducive to the size of the crowds that come out for these big games. “John Essex has a very small facility and there is some difficulties with getting a big crowd in their gym,” Hill said.

The game has always been a big one that has produced massive crowds and brought in a great deal of revenue for the home school. According to principal McCoy, the game brings in about $3,000 when John Essex host.

But this is not a money issue nor is it a personal issue according to Marengo County Superintendent Luke Hallmark.

“I know that these is not a personal thing. These two schools currently have one of the best working relationships that they have had in years. I know that both administrators and all coaches have good relationships with each other and that they only want what is best for their kids,” Hallmark said.

Even after the Demopolis City Schools made the decision, DHS presented john Essex with an alternative so that the two teams could still play. DHS offered to play both scheduled games this season at Demopolis High School, where seating capacity is higher and security is available. And give the gate to John Essex at one of the two games. But John Essex considered their jester a bit of a slap in the face and refused to play any games this season with DHS.

“My first reaction was to just take their offer and play the game in Demopolis. But the students didn’t want that. It would have been an insult to them to have to play both games at DHS,” McCoy said.

So what is the problem with two teams like DHS and John Essex playing each other in a friendly game of basketball? According to Hallmark these types of games produce large crowds and it’s the crowds that are always the problem.

“The problems you face at these games are not with the kids, but rather with the fans. And whenever you have big crowds at a rival game there can be problems,” Hallmark said.