The Montgomery Bears varsity football team is set to return to action this Friday night as the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office continues its investigation into an alleged hazing incident involving students that took place at an off-campus location on Sept. 27.
After a closed session of the regularly scheduled Montgomery Independent School District board meeting Tuesday night, one of the announcements made public was that the board didn’t anticipate forfeiting any more athletic contests as the result of the investigation.
As scheduled, Montgomery (1-5, 0-3) will host Cleveland (0-6, 0-3) for homecoming at 7:30 p.m. at MISD Stadium.
Per the MISD Parent and Student-Athlete Handbook, students who are suspended from school are not eligible to participate in extracurricular activities.
The Bears didn’t play last Friday night at home against Huntsville after forfeiting the contest earlier in the week. Montgomery played its Oct. 4 game at A&M Consolidated, two nights after a public forum took place where some information on the alleged hazing incident was shared with parents by school administrators.
“They’re excited to get back on the field,” Montgomery coach John Bolfing said in a phone interview Wednesday morning. “They haven’t stopped practicing. So to be able to get out and play a game is exciting for them of course. It’s our homecoming week, so that adds a little bit to it also. They’re definitely ready to play again.”
Bolfing was not able to comment about the ongoing investigation or the students involved in the alleged incident.
The hazing incident, believed to have happened at an off-campus location on Sept. 27, came to the attention of school officials following a report made to district’s Montgomery Bear Helpline.
Following an initial investigation by the Montgomery ISD Police Department, the case was handed over to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 4.
Montgomery ISD trustees met last Friday morning in closed session but did not release any information on the case. Also last week, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon recused his office from the investigation, citing a potential conflict of interest. The county attorney’s office is assisting with the investigation.
“As this is a complex and sensitive investigation, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office is committed to dedicating as much time as needed to ensure a thorough, impartial and transparent investigation, the sheriff’s statement said. “This investigation involves juveniles which further adds to the complexity of this case, and the methods of investigation. By law and policy we are limited on the amount of information we can release.”
The Montgomery players and coaches have continued a normal routine in recent weeks. Sub-varsity games were not forfeited last week.
“They’ve been good,” Bolfing said of the team’s practices. “This week, we’ve been dealing with the weather. Practices have gone well. The kids have been focused and practicing hard. They really haven’t skipped a beat. They’re very business-like.”
Bolfing was proud of the focus of his team showed last week when they didn’t have a game to prepare for.
“They were really good,” Bolfing said. “We had a good week of practice. They’ve kept the focus throughout all of this.”
Instead of playing Friday night, the coaching staff focused on watching future opponents.
“The coaches went out scouting and watching games,” Bolfing said. “Our schedule was pretty much the same as it always is.”
After a season-opening win over Vidor where the Bears scored the winning touchdown in the final seconds, the Bears have dropped four straight games on the field, plus the forfeit to Huntsville. The last home game was played on Sept. 27, the day of the alleged incident, where the Bears allowed 21 unanswered points in fourth quarter and lost 56-50 to Bryan Rudder to open district play.
The following week, Montgomery fell 41-21 to A&M Consolidated on the road. The Bears currently tied for last place with Cleveland.
“We try to take the approach of one week at a time,” Bolfing said. “We don’t look ahead, and we don’t look behind. We look to the next game we have on the schedule. There’s nothing we can do about the past and nothing we can do about the future other than try to get better every day and every week.”
Montgomery beat Cleveland 52-21 last year. The Indians are coming off a 67-20 loss this past Friday to the newest MISD school, Lake Creek.
“We’re trying to take care of business one week at a time,” Bolfing said. “This time, it’s the Cleveland Indians.”
While the team is returning to the field, the investigation continues for the sheriff’s office, which took over the case from the MISD Police Department on Oct. 4.
On Tuesday, the sheriff’s office announced in a press release that they seized four cell phones from students on Friday and that the devices were being examined for potential evidence.
People with information pertaining to the investigation are asked to contact the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office at 936-760-5800 or the Multi-County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-392-7867 and refer to case No. 19A322293.
Staff writer Meagan Ellsworth contributed to this report