Parent Banned From Youth Football Games

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A Payson father has been told he is not welcome at any youth football league games for a profanity-laced death threat he made to a coach.

Central Arizona Youth Football League officials issued the ban after an Oct. 2 postgame incident in which John Ralston, a parent of the Payson Eagles quarterback, approached long-time Payson Raider coach Billy Hardt.

Ralston was apparently upset because he thought the Raider players had been coached to hurt his son.

"He (Ralston) told me he was going to kick my (profanity) ass," Hardt said. "I told him to get out of my face."

According to witnesses, Ralston walked away, returned and told Hardt that if his son had been injured in the game, he was going to kill Hardt.

In the Raiders' hard-fought 22-0 win over the Eagles, Ralston's son absorbed several resounding hits.

Ralston said he did not wish to comment about the game or the incident.

According to Raiders assistant coach Dale Gonzalez, after Ralston made the threat, Hardt approached Payson Police Officer Steve Montgomery, who officiated the game, and asked him to remove Ralston from the scene.

Montgomery said he took Ralston aside and advised him that his behavior was totally out of line and possibly unlawful.

Stacy Essary, who has a son on the Raiders, witnessed the confrontation between Hardt and Ralston.

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing," she said. "Thankfully, Officer Montgomery witnessed this ... but unfortunately the kids saw all this as well, including Coach Hardt's daughter."

Kristi Ford, who also has a son on the Raiders and was filming the game, agreed it was extremely unfortunate that such a distasteful incident occurred in front of youngsters.

Hardt says any differences Ralston had with him could have been discussed away from the players and cheerleaders.

Payson Youth League officials, including President Scott Geske, said the incident was all the more unfortunate because it came on the heels of a football controversy in Phoenix. There, the Arizona Youth Football Federations' volunteer executive board canceled playoff games after allegations of widespread abuse of player residency rules and falsification of applications.

The cancellation affected 10,000 players on about 220 teams.

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