WARREN - On the heels of more than a week of tension and violence in the city, Warren G. Harding High School on Friday canceled its final regular season football game following the recommendation of police.
The final game for seniors in a season that will not be extended into playoffs will not be made up.
"We made this decision in consultation with the administration and the police department," said Warren superintendent Michael Notar.
Harding head coach Steve Arnold said he received word of the cancellation from district athletic director Paul Trina about 2 p.m.
The disappointment, he said, was immense, especially among senior players.
"It's all about the kids. All that other stuff, it doesn't matter to me, it's all about the kids," Arnold said Friday evening. "My concern is with my kids, but especially our seniors. To have to walk into that locker room and see tears coming down their faces, to have to console them. ... and the entire team, but especially the seniors. It was very heartfelt."
Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said he understood the disappointment, but supported the decision to cancel. He said he, too, was planning to head to the game against the Lorain Tigers.
"Superintendent Notar called my office and expressed his concerns," Franklin said. "It was a difficult decision to make. I had to face a similar decision about allowing trick or treating on Halloween."
The administration decided to go ahead with Thursday's trick or treat.
"I understand there may be some disappointment in this decision," Franklin said.
The cancellation came following two weeks of violence and rumored threats of retaliation that started with the police shooting of Warren resident Taemarr Walker, 24. Days later, Walker's brother, Tashawn Walker, 26, was alleged to have been involved in a shooting at a Warren Township bar early Oct. 26, and then the shooting death of Richard Rollison IV, 24, at a West Market Street, Warren, gas station. He has been charged in the Rollison murder. Within days he was arrested in Texas, where police said he fled, and is awaiting extradition to Warren to face charges. He has not been charged in the Warren Township shooting incident.
Several efforts Friday by the Tribune Chronicle to reach the city police department, including Warren Police Chief Eric Merkel, to discuss Friday's game cancellation were not successful.
Friday, Richard Rollison III, the father of the shooting victim, said he disagreed with the game's cancellation.
"I spoke to a lot of the young people who knew my son and, as I said in the press conference, I do not want anyone to do anything violent in my son's name or for his family sake," Rollison said. "I believe we have a pretty good grip on this."
He described Warren as a football town and having high school football games are important to area young people.
"These kids have to have fun," he said.
Still, he acknowledged that it's the schools decision to react to threats of violence.
Warren resident and longtime follower of the Warren G. Harding football team Elizabeth Sweet expressed sadness at the cancellation.
"I know this is the senior night for the band and the last game for the senior football players," she said. "However, I feel the mayor, superintendent and principal have to take the threats seriously. If something were to happen, they would be held responsible."
The Sweet family has been season ticket holders for the Harding Football team for years.
"I graduated from Warren G. Harding and all my children graduated from harding," she said. "My son played football for Harding."
On Wednesday, the city administration joined the Rollison family at City Hall to ask residents for an end to what's been described as escalating violence.
Tensions have been high in Warren in the aftermath of the two shootings, which Franklin resulted from different circumstances.
School attendance was down this week, but classes were held as usual at each of the city school district's five buildings after rumors spread on social media sites about a possible ''shootout'' planned at the high school.
Students were met at the doors of Warren G. Harding Tuesday by school resources officers and detectives from the Warren Police Department who checked purses and other belongings. Students were not permitted to carry book bags into the high school.
Notar said the heightened awareness was in response to the Facebook comment posted by a student on Monday.
Notar noted the staff has been at full attendance.