With less than three minutes to go in Saturday night’s football game between Laurel and Hattiesburg, a disturbance of some kind sent players and fans scrambling off the field and out of the stands for some 20 minutes before play resumed.
Details about what initially sparked the chaos are still unclear, but a spokesman for the Hattiesburg Police Department said Sunday a loud noise – perhaps a car or bathroom door slamming – may have been to blame.
The incident happened at the end of the game as Hattiesburg’s offense was driving towards the end zone to add to an existing 14-point lead over the visiting Tornadoes from Laurel.
Hattiesburg won the game 41-20 to claim its fifth straight Lil Brown Jug win.
The disturbance sent fans sprinting away from the area where some people heard the noise. Some even darted across the north end toward the visitor’s bleachers. Hattiesburg coaches initially instructed players to take a knee, but as chaos ensued, players from both teams were ushered into the locker rooms until receiving an all-clear signal.
Although more than half of the crowd left the stands, many stayed in bleachers and waited for the game to resume.
Ryan Moore, a spokesman for the Hattiesburg Police Department, told PineBeltSPORTS Sunday officers working the game immediately investigated what may have caused the chaos, but came up empty-handed.
Despite rumors circulating online, police found no evidence of a firearm being involved in the incident. Moore said there were 12 officers working the game on Saturday and none reported hearing any gunshots.
Moore said officers did not call for backup, but the Lamar County Sheriff Department sent units to the stadium when they heard radio traffic about the incident.
Hattiesburg Coach Tony Vance said his team has a plan in place for emergency situations, but admitted things didn’t quite go as plan Saturday night.
“That wasn’t it running off the sidelines,” he said.
Instead of running to the locker room at the south end of the stadium, protocol calls for the team to fall into a tight formation and move in an orderly fashion to the all-purpose athletic building north of the stadium.
“We wedge up with the big guys in the front, and they lead the way,” he said. “We don’t stop for anything or anyone, and we go straight to the locker room.”