PHOENIX — The Douglas Bulldogs had to call an unfortunate early ending to their game against the Carl Hayden Falcons on Friday night after a drive-by shooting right behind the football field. With approximately five minutes left in the game, the sound of multiple gunshots tore through the stadium as fans and players all dropped to the ground.
“I heard the first two, and I was like, ‘That’s gunshots,'” Douglas coach Hunter Long said. “Then they kept ringing off, and that’s when I started telling everyone to start dropping.”
At first, it was just two initial shots. Then, a brief pause before a number of consecutive rounds were fired off, sending everyone diving for cover. With nearly everyone laying stomach-down on the ground, the gunman fired off two more shots before peeling away from the scene.
“Small-town America down there in Douglas; These guys aren’t exposed to a lot of stuff like that,” Long said. “It definitely opened up their eyes and probably shook them up a little bit, but it’s a good learning experience.”
Even after the shooting stopped, everyone remained silent and on their stomachs, waiting for further instruction. After a short bit, the sirens had started, and a message was sent over the PA system telling everyone to evacuate the stands and head to the auditorium immediately.
As fans were still working to get inside the auditorium to shelter in place, the helicopters could be heard circling overhead. Fans were moved away from the windows and encouraged to stay out of sight just in case. Within a matter of less than 10 minutes, the entire night had changed.
“It’s something you don’t really prepare for, and you don’t know what to do,” Long said. “I think they handled themselves very well. They all kept their cool and stayed calm to get everything handled that we needed to. Carl Hayden’s staff did did a great job of getting everyone tucked away here in the auditorium, but it just was a crazy turn of events here.”
After everyone was secured inside, school officials told everyone to get comfortable as it was unknown how much time Phoenix Police would need to clear the scene. For a number of the players and the parents, it didn’t matter how much time it took to secure the scene, they just were happy everybody was safe.
After around an hour of sheltering in place, Police and campus security started letting people make their way to their cars in groups. Outside, officers were standing guard at the gates to the parking lot, and Phoenix PD set up a parameter surrounding the entire high school to ensure safety.
Since enough of the game was played before the incident occurred, Carl Hayden was able to pick up a 36-19 win over Douglas. Much like the series of odd events, it was an unusual night for the Bulldogs, as well.
“We left at about 10 a.m. just to make it up here,” Long said. “We knew our guys were going to be a little bit sluggish just from having to be on the bus all day long, and that’s how we came out. We came out flat, sluggish, unfocused and unfortunately it hurt us early on.”
Blessed with their safety, the Bulldogs will return home to prep for next week’s game against Canyon del Oro and shake off the events from Friday. Following the loss to the Falcons, the Bulldogs sit at 3-2 on the season.
“I’m just glad everyone’s okay,” Long said. “That’s the big thing, making sure everyone’s safe and healthy.”