By Ray Hamill — It’s a day the Little 4 will want to forget.
And in particular, it’s a day the Ferndale Wildcats will want to forget.
And when all was said and done, the Hoopa Valley Warriors were crowned Little 4 champions in the most bizarre circumstances that unfortunately had little to do with the play on the court.
One day after widespread allegations that Ferndale fans — and members of the varsity boys basketball team — had made derogatory and possible racist remarks toward the Hoopa players in a girls basketball game at Ferndale High, the school’s boys varsity team refused to travel to Hoopa for a Friday showdown, forfeiting the game and handing the Warriors at least a share of the Little 4 championship unopposed.
No official reason was given for the forfeit, and Ferndale Athletic Director and boys basketball head coach Clint McClurg did not return multiple phone calls from Humboldt Sports on Friday to clarify why they did not make the trip, or how the Cats are dealing with the allegations, nor to deny there were racist remarks made.
“… Ferndale students mocked and hollered horrible things at our girls on the court last night …” read one of the comments on Kide-FM Hoopa’s Facebook page.
The Ferndale JV team did make the trip on Friday.
The forfeit, coupled with St. Bernard’s 71-57 win at South Fork on Friday night, guarantees the 4-0 Warriors at least a share of the league title for the first time in five years.
The Warriors, however, most definitely wanted the game to go ahead.
“Ferndale didn’t want to travel for safety reasons,” Hoopa Valley head coach Tyler Mitchell said. “I don’t think anyone was going to treat them in a bad way. We had a plan.”
According to Mitchell, the two school principals had agreed that before the game Ferndale would make a formal apology for their fans’ behavior the night before, and the Warriors were happy to put the incident behind them and get back to basketball.
The controversy began when a section of the Ferndale fanbase was accused of making derogatory remarks toward the Hoopa players during Thursday night’s game.
Hoopa girls varsity head coach Floyd Billings said he did not hear what was said, but added that a number of the Ferndale varsity boys players were involved, and at one stage had crowded onto the court hindering the Hoopa girls as they attempted to start play and shouting at them.
“My girls were rattled,” he said.
It’s also not the first accusations of racist behavior at Ferndale High.
In 2011, The Redwoods Times published a story titled Racism alleged at Ferndale football game; Allegation is third in a year against Wildcat fans.
More than anything, Mitchell and his players were disappointed they lost the opportunity to play a valuable game in their preparation for the playoffs, as well as an all-important home gate, one of just four all year for the well-traveled program.
“I’m sure it’s not everyone in the town,” Mitchell said of the allegations. “Just a couple of bad apples.”