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For at least the last three years, acts of vandalism have occurred on the eve of the Marion and Washington County High School football games.
This year, the damage was more extensive than in the past and could extinguish the rivalry. The future of the series in all sports is pending a decision by school officials.
In past years, the team hosting the game would usually fall victim to spray paint on the playing field.
However, on Friday morning both schools found damage. Washington County High School suffered more serious damage.
According to the police report, Springfield Police Department Officer Charlie Osbourn was dispatched to Bennett R. Lewis Field on Friday morning.
Damage to the football field, a golf cart, the press box and some bleachers were reported.
The golf cart was overturned, with three of four tires slashed, as well as spray paint damage to the vehicle.
The field was damaged with a digging tool, Osbourn reported, as several holes were dug in the middle of the grass on the west end of the field.
The press box windows were spray painted and seven of the windows were shot out with a pellet gun. Some bleachers and trash cans were also spray painted.
Two concrete letters were taken from campus landscaping and placed in the middle of the field. The letters were broken and spray painted yellow and turned into a “MC.”
Washington County High School Principal Paul Terrell said the damage continued at the game on Friday.
Some Marion County fans, he said, put paint on cars from Washington County. The paint, however, wasn’t permanent.
“A few individuals are putting a black cloud over this series,” he said.
Terrell said he doesn’t excuse the damage done at Marion County High School, which included a spray painted “WC” on the football field.
“Ninety-eight percent of people enjoy the night,” he said. “But we need to get people to stop vandalizing.”
He said in the past few years, the incidents have occurred on the field of the team hosting the game. With that in mind, no one was watching Bennett R. Lewis Field on Thursday night and Friday morning.
Terrell said the insurance company is evaluating the damage and hasn’t decided on the monetary value yet.
“It’s sad that we’ve got such a good deal and this seems to be escalating,” Terrell said.
Marion County High School Principal Stacey Hall said someone had painted the field with a big “WC” and swords, as well as “WCHS” painted in the end zone. Something else was spray painted on the field, he said, but was illegible.
Hall said there were no issues before the game and that behavior during the game was typical for the occasion.
Besides the issue in the parking lot with car chalk and windows, there were no other problems with Washington and Marion County fans after the game.
“It is a shame that a few individuals from both counties would do these things which take away from the rivalry we have,” Terrell said. “ It is a game to be enjoyed, where there will be a winner and a loser, but unfortunately both schools lose when episodes like this happen.”