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Incident between Battlefield, Phoebus players 'dealt with' at state finals

By Preston Williams
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 14, 2010; 6:17 PM

While Battlefield football players were on the Scott Stadium field warming up for the Virginia AAA Division 6 football championship Saturday in Charlottesville, players from the Phoebus team that had just won the Division 5 crown were stealing cell phones and iPods from the Battlefield players' unattended gear, school officials confirmed.

Battlefield players, shortly before kickoff, returned to the dressing area that they shared briefly with Phoebus players and discovered items missing from their belongings. Before the Phoebus team left to go back to Hampton, school and championship site officials collected the stolen items and returned them to the Battlefield players.

"They came in after they won their game all excited, talking to us [and] saying good luck, and once we left, they stole everything out of our bags," said one Battlefield player. "A couple of guys checked [their bags] because [the Phoebus players] acted kind of weird. ... A [game administrator] wouldn't let them leave until we got all our stuff back."

Battlefield went on to beat Hermitage, 26-7, for the state title. In the earlier game, Phoebus had knocked off Stone Bridge, 36-17, for the Phantoms' third consecutive state title and sixth in 10 years.

Battlefield Athletic Director Ben Stutler said that all the missing items were returned and that his school considers the matter closed.

"Some things happened and we dealt with it and just leave it at that," Stutler said. "It was dealt with very quickly and resolved very quickly."

Phoebus Athletic Director Deonna Brown said she could not comment. Phoebus Principal Robert Johnson did not return phone calls or an e-mail Tuesday afternoon.

Ken Tilley, executive director of the Virginia High School League, said VHSL officials learned of the incident after the Division 6 final. Tilley said that he was not aware of any law enforcement involvement and did not know how many Phoebus students were involved in the thefts. He said that University of Virginia game representatives and members of both schools handled the situation.

"It was satisfactorily resolved at the time and in the meantime we've been in communication with the schools as a follow-up," Tilley said. "They're continuing to work on the matter and deal with it in the appropriate way based on what they find."

Tilley said that teams sometimes occupy the same locker room space during "transitional" periods at state championship events, with one team exiting while another enters. Tilley said it is possible that the VHSL will alter that procedure for future events but that he recalled no other such incidents occurring at previous championship sites.

"Some teams clear out before the next team arrives," Tilley said. "It just happened in this case there was some overlap in their transition."

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