Superintendent Wes Smith with the Morgan Hill Unified School District is calling recent vandalism at Live Oak High School a "cross-town rivalry prank that went a little bit too far."
Smith doesn't want to blow the issue out of proportion, however. He prefers to call Thursday's tagging an example of "destructive school spirit."
"We're not making it out to be more than anything what it is," the superintendent reiterated. "I'm not suggesting there's this really serious issue between students at Sobrato and Live Oak."
While Smith cannot confirm if the few leads in the case point to student suspects, the content and timeliness of the vandalism correlate with a Sobrato versus Live Oak football game at 7 p.m. tonight. The teams both enter 2-0 on the season for the sixth year of the highly anticipated El Toro Bowl rivalry game between the only two public high schools in Morgan Hill.
Live Oak holds the winning record for the El Toro Bowl of 4-1. Last year Sobrato won, but was forced to forfeit the win later in the season.
On Thursday morning, the Live Oak High School community walked into their campus to see the Sobrato High School's Bulldog pawprint logo and big red S's covering sidewalks, trees, Acorn decals and sides of buildings in red paint.
The vandalism was still on campus Thursday morning, but other incidents had been cleaned up, according to several callers who wished to remain anonymous. Smith said the tagging was mostly concentrated in the quad area and has been eradicated as of Friday.
Smith said he does not know what time the vandalism occurred; only that it was discovered early Thursday morning by campus maintenance staff.
A police report has been filed and the school is conducting an investigation into the incident, for which there are leads, Smith confirmed.
Smith said he isn't expecting anymore vandalism to occur prior to tonight's game. There will be police officers staffed at the El Toro Bowl, but that has nothing to do with Thursday's incident, Smith said.
"When you get thousands of community members in one location, it's a good idea to have law enforcement there," he reasoned. "But I don't beleive the nature of the El Toro Bowl requires we have more law enforcement there than usual."
When a city has two cross-town rivals that are impassioned about their sports programs, Smith alluded that pranks are a typical byproduct that should not be condoned. It's not necessarily cause for overreaction, either.
During a recent college tour with his daughter, Smith noted campus officials taking heightened precautions to protect USC's bronze Tommy Trojan statue – the target of UCLA hooliganism during football season – by wrapping the icon in layers of duct tape.
"It shows us that we shouldn't overreact," Smith said. "We just need to be diligent that we're putting the message out there – that pride in your team and school is fine; just don't let that pride be destructive."
There have been no retaliation attempts on Live Oak's end, Smith said.
"I'm always concerned when I see any type of vandalism," he added. "It's disheartening for me that people want to destroy something in an attempt to celebrate something else...I just hope students and their parents enjoy this crosstown rivalry appropriately, and I expect that they will."
Police have not returned phone calls on the incident.
If you know anything about the vandalism, please contact the Times at 847-7037.