JASPER, Tenn. - Less than two weeks after the football field house at Marion County High School was vandalized, a joint investigation by the Jasper police and the Marion County Sheriff's Department has led to a shocking arrest Wednesday morning. In a bizarre twist, Marion County teacher and assistant football coach Michael Schmitt was arrested and booked into the Marion County jail on charges of vandalism of $1,000-$10,000.
The Sheriff's department would not confirm whether other coaches on the Warriors' staff were also involved or had knowledge of Schmitt's actions but did say the investigation is still ongoing.
Officers involved believe the vandalism was an attempt to inspire the Marion County football team before its game against county rival South Pittsburg. However, the Pirates won the game 35-17.
"It is sad to say that this event gives the whole community a black eye and the real victims of this incident are the kids from both schools," said Marion County Sheriff's Detective Matt Blansett, one of the arresting officers.
In the early-morning hours of Friday, Nov. 1, the day of the Marion County vs. South Pittsburg prep football game, orange and black spray paint - South Pittsburg's school colors - was used to write vulgarities on the side doors and along the backside of the field house as well as a storage building and on the concrete parking lot. According to Marion County schools superintendent Mark Griffith, the vandal's damage totaled "several thousand dollars".
Trash was scattered around the field house, derogatory names toward Marion coaches and players as well as a large power 'P' - South Pittsburg's logo - were painted on the buildings to make it look like Pirates supporters were the culprits.
However, county investigators found enough evidence to arrest Schmitt, who had also been hired to coach the Warriors' baseball program.
The South Pittsburg-Marion County rivalry is one of the oldest and most heated in Tennessee, with the schools separated by just eight miles. Both teams have proud traditions and both entered this year's game ranked among the top three in the state and the District 6-A championship was decided when the Pirates claimed their eighth straight win in the series.
Both teams are still alive in the playoffs, with Marion County traveling to Boyd-Buchanan Friday in a Class 2A second-round game, while South Pittsburg hosts Moore County.
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.