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Santa Maria High student Rodrigo Garcia is taken off the Pioneer Valley football field by assistant principal Greg Dickson, as Pioneer Valley football player Kenneth Hoobery helps.

Len Wood, Staff

Pioneer Valley High School senior Kenneth Hoobery takes a lot of pride in his school.

His sisters Monique and Letty were standout softball players there and he's a senior captain on the football team.

Friday night, when Hoobery saw a fan of rival Santa Maria streaking across the field and waving an SMHS flag in the third quarter of the Panthers' game against the Saints, Hoobery took it as a display of disrespect.

So he took action.

As the Santa Maria High student, now identified as Rodrigo Garcia, moved closer to the group of players, Hoobery took a step back, crouched down and then sprang forward, slamming the shirtless SMHS student into the Pioneer Valley turf. Garcia quickly got back to his feet, but just as quickly, tumbled again, likely woozy from the hit delivered by Hoobery.

Garcia was then quickly corralled by Pioneer Valley assistant principal Greg Dickinson and Santa Maria athletic director Brian Wallace and escorted from the field. 

"When I saw him with that flag, I thought that was a lot of disrespect toward our school and our field," Hoobery said Tuesday. "Coach (John) Ruiz always asks us how we are going to react when someone comes into our home and tries to take something from our house. I wondered, 'What would I do?'”

Now we know. 

Hoobery's hit on Garcia has gone viral, with Sports Illustrated posting a video clip from the Times' webcast of the game to its social media pages. The Times' video from the game was nearing 8,000 views on Youtube Tuesday night.

Garcia said Tuesday that he was feeling fine.

"I wasn't expecting him to hit me," Garcia said. "I was just looking at the fence to escape. I got a bump on my chin but it went away already." 

Santa Maria High School principal Joseph Domingues would not comment on Garcia's status at school, though Garcia said Tuesday night he was suspended for three days and will return to school on Friday.

"The student is aware of his actions and how they negatively impacted a lot of people as I personally met with him earlier this week," Domingues said. "It will not happen again. However, what I can tell you is that he will be formally apologizing to the Pioneer Valley administration, our football team and the SMHS ASB leadership.

"We understand spirit and emotions were high, but crossing the field crossed the line. His actions may have potentially incited violence, put his and others' safety in jeopardy and he disrupted school business."

Not only that, but the prank may have fired up the Panthers.

When Garcia entered the field of play, Santa Maria was driving inside Pioneer Valley territory leading 21-19 in the third quarter. Officials stopped play once Garcia's presence was detected and the ordeal caused a delay of a few minutes. 

On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Hoobery intercepted Jonathan Ramos' pass near the end zone as the Panthers went on to win 32-28.

"He motivated PV's defense and hurt our drive and momentum due to the timeout, which may have contributed to losing the game because of the close score," Domingues said. "We want to set an example that we take those things very seriously and there are consequences to actions such as his.

"Spirit is back at levels not seen since the 1980s, but crossing fields and disrupting games is not how Saints display pride."

Hoobery has been lauded on campus since the event.

"It's one of the biggest deals at PV right now," Hoobery said. "People come up to me like, 'You’re the guy that hit the streaker!' It's just something that happened."

Given a second chance, Hoobery says he wouldn't change the outcome.

"I think I was happy with how everything happened," he said. "I wouldn’t change anything."

Hoobery certainly doesn't see many more daring students entering the Pioneer Valley field any time soon.

"I think that sent a message," he said. "I don’t see anyone running on our field after that."

Garcia, who's a junior at Santa Maria, says he doesn't regret anything that happened and admits it was all spur of the moment.

"At first I was just joking around with some friends, but then I decided to just do it," he said. "I took off my shirt, opened the gate, stole someone's flag and ran on the field."

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at @jbaileysmsports

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Sports Editor

Alumni Fresno State