Former South Texas HS football player who tackled referee avoids jail sentence, pleads no contest

Emmanuel Duron tackled ref during high school playoff game after being ejected

After being ejected from the game Thursday night in the first half, Emmanuel Duron of Edinburg High School came running from the sideline at a full sprint and slammed the referee to the ground. (KSAT)

A former South Texas high school football player who tackled a referee in 2020 after being ejected from a Texas high school football game pleaded no contest to a charge of assault-causing bodily injury on Tuesday morning, according to CBS 4 News Rio Grande Valley.

Emmanuel Duron, 22, will spend a year on community supervision.

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On Dec. 3, 2020, Duron tackled referee Alfredo “Fred” Gracia during a high school playoff game between the Edinburg High School Bobcats and the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Bears after being ejected for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. When the call was made, he then sprinted from the sideline and slammed the referee, who fell to the ground.

CBS 4 News reports that Duran was given a judgement of deferred adjudication and will be ordered to serve one year of community supervision. During that time, he will be required to avoid places and people of harmful character, pay a fine and maintain employment among other conditions.

The Monitor of McAllen reported at the time that Gracia was evaluated for a concussion by medical personnel at the stadium.

In December 2022, Gracia eventually filed a lawsuit against Duron, the Rio Grande Texas Association of Sports Officials and the Southwest Officials Association after suffering embarrassment, pain and psychological and physical damage from the assault, CBS News 4 said. Gracia is currently seeking more than $1 million.

Duron has a pending case for manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance and was arrested in February in connection with a separate assault charge, CBS News 4 reports. He will be unable to possess a firearm or ammunition as a result of the deal.

Edinburg, located in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, ultimately won the football game 35-21, though the result didn’t advance them to the playoffs, since district officials decided to remove the team from the postseason.

Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District officials apologized to the referee and issued a statement.

“The district’s Interim Superintendent, after consulting with senior University Interscholastic League (UIL) officials, and with the district’s legal counsel, has decided to remove the Edinburg High School football team from the playoffs after an unexpected incident involving a student-athlete and a game official that occurred during a football game on December 3, 2020. We extend a sincere apology to the referee and his family. On behalf of the Edinburg CISD Board of Trustees and administration, we apologize to the athletes, staff, and our school community.

“We will take the appropriate disciplinary action once we understand the facts and circumstances underlining this incident. The district takes these matters very seriously; however, we cannot comment further on a pending investigation until such investigation is complete.

“The UIL has made it clear to Interim Superintendent Gilbert Garza Jr. that UIL would have removed the football team from the playoffs if the district did not withdraw the team. Under Texas law and district policy, the interim superintendent was authorized to move forward with the decision. Mr. Garza has confirmed this after consulting with the district’s legal counsel. In connection with the incident, the UIL released the following statement:

“‘The UIL strongly condemns the unsportsmanlike behavior displayed in the Edinburg vs. PSJA high school football game on December 3, 2020. Physical contact with a sports official is never appropriate. Our thoughts and well wishes are with the official involved. We applaud the Edinburg CISD administration for addressing this situation swiftly and taking appropriate action in removing themselves from the playoffs and for dealing with the student involved in the incident.

“‘The conduct witnessed in the Edinburg, PSJA game in no way represents the values taught through interscholastic activities including high school football,’ said Dr. Charles Breithaupt, executive director of the UIL. ‘Respect, responsibility, fairness and concern for others are vital components of educational competition. Strong and appropriate measures are being taken by the school district and we hope that healing can come from this teachable moment.’”

Edinburg CISD

The Texas Association of Sports Officials also issued a statement about the incident.

“On the evening of December 3, 2020 another vicious and deliberate assault was inflicted on a TASO Football Official by a player who had just been ejected from the contest. Unfortunately this type of blind-sided assault on an official while working on the field is not new to Texas Football,” the statement read.

In 2015, two John Jay High School football players hit a referee in the middle of a play. The San Antonio students pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, as did former John Jay Head Coach Mark Breed, who was accused of telling the players to attack the referee.


Edinburg High School pulls out of football playoffs after player attacked referee

South Texas high school football player attacks referee after being ejected from game

About the Authors

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.

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