Correction to This Article
The article incorrectly said that a Blake High School football player who allegedly slashed the hands of three Magruder players during a Nov. 2 game had been expelled from Sherwood High School. The player transferred to Blake after completing a program in English for speakers of other languages ESOL at Sherwood.

Handshake Incident Stuns Colonels

By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The postgame handshake has long been a formality at high school events. As Magruder football coach Doug Miller watched his players line up Friday night to go through the ritual with Blake, he was thinking more of his team's 55-7 victory than the token act of sportsmanship.

In single file, Magruder's players and coaching staff met their Blake counterparts at the 50-yard line, shaking hands and mumbling a cursory "good game."

About halfway through, Miller said, things went awry.

One after another, three Magruder players felt a dull pain in the palms of the right hands and saw blood dripping. A Blake player, who was not in uniform, allegedly carried a small folding knife and cut the hands of three players, who didn't realize their wounds until a couple of seconds later.

The Blake player, a 17-year old, was arrested and charged as a juvenile with second-degree assault and carrying a weapon on school property, both misdemeanors. All three injured Magruder players were tended to by the team's medical staff and sent home that evening with their parents. None were taken to the hospital.

But the entire Magruder team was left shaken.

"You never have an inkling of getting accosted while shaking hands," Miller said. "Is it a concern for us now? Was Virginia Tech a concern? Nobody ever thought [the shootings] would happen. You just do everything you can do to make sure everyone is safe."

According to a Magruder player, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because players were asked not to comment on the incident, none of the players knew the Blake player, nor did they sense any unrest during the game.

Messages left for Blake Athletic Director Butch Hilliard were not returned.

"No one knows where it came from," Magruder Principal Leroy Evans said. "I've spoken with people who have talked to the kid, and they don't know.

"I've never had a situation where you're dealing with something that's the essence of sportsmanship, and then something like this happens. The most surprising thing is, we've had game after game with Blake High School and they're as polite as anyone in the county. This is clearly an isolated incident."

Particularly jarring was the apparent absence of a motive, and the fact that the attack came at a time when players were most vulnerable.

"I'll certainly tell them that we'll do everything we can to protect them," Evans said. "Nothing like this has happened and it's strange to them."

Magruder boys' basketball coach Dan Harwood said the timing of the handshake ritual has long bothered him.

"I don't like doing it because everyone is so emotional right after" the game ends, Harwood said. "When I was in school [at now-defunct Peary High in Montgomery County], we never did it. I don't know how it got started."

Evans said his players definitely will continue to shake their opponents' hands after games. The Colonels play at Gaithersburg tomorrow night, with the winner ensured of a playoff spot. It would be Magruder's first postseason appearance since 1989.

Win or lose that game, the incident will be on the Colonels' minds when they go through the handshake line.

"Oh yeah, it's something we're going to think about," a Magruder player said. "It was scary."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company