CLEVELAND, Texas -- In Cleveland near Tarkington High School, turmoil on the gridiron has touched a raw nerve.
"The kid was on the ground and it looked like he was just strangling him," said Joyce Jackson, as she described what happened during last Friday night's game that pitted the Tarkington Longhorns against the Splendora Wildcats.
She saw the controversial play when players from opposing teams began to tussle with one another, and then the moment when Liberty County Precinct 5 Constable L.W. DeSpain charged onto the field.
"I thought there was going to be a riot really," said Jones.
Freelance photographer Sean Jones snapped pictures of the odd confrontation.
"They're getting ready for the kickoff and then the constable shows up on the field and starts questioning the refs," said Jones. I just thought it was crazy because it's nothing I've ever seen."
To Jones it didn't appear as though the player from Splendora was strangling the Tarkington kid. But others in the crowd saw things differently.
"All I see is this kid just strangling him and I didn't know what was going on," said Brandi Locklear who was also in attendance.
KHOU 11 News was able to reach the constable by phone. He said he told the refs they should have tossed the player out. But instead, the refs penalized him 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. They also filed a formal complaint accusing the constable of abusing his authority.
One ref said he felt threatened by the constable's display of force. Still, DeSpain said that if given the chance, he'd do it all over again.
DeSpain enjoys plenty of support around Tarkington High. But even some fans who think the refs got it wrong, believe the constable may have gone too far.
"I don't think he had a right to go over there," said Jones.