Clovis East players victims of theft

School officials on both sides said a locker room theft during Friday night's Clovis East versus Bullard high school football game has stolen away some of the attention of an exciting game.

Someone broke into the locker room being used by Clovis East players during the game at McLane High School's stadium in east-central Fresno. Thieves made off with cell phones, iPods, wallets, car keys and clothes -- anything of value.

Friday night's game was a huge win for No. 5-ranked Bullard, which beat No. 3-ranked Clovis East 24-19. But Bullard's athletic director, Jody Sharp, said it's being overshadowed by what took place off the field.

"It was a great game," Sharp said. "I just don't want this to be the focal point."

He worries the crime will fuel negative perceptions about Fresno schools.

Clovis East athletic director Ray Hansen said the theft was the second blow of the night.

"It would be disheartening even if we won," he said. The theft "was like pouring vinegar in the wound."

Hansen said the team discovered the theft after they returned to the locker room about 10 p.m. The Clovis team was assigned the girls locker room and Bullard the boys.

"The [locker room] doors were locked, so we don't know how it happened," he said.

Clovis East coach Tim Murphy said the athletes' belongings had been thoroughly picked through. "A lot of the kids had their bags open and stuff stolen."

Kristine Arax, wife of Bullard coach Donnie Arax, said word of the theft began circulating on the football field almost immediately after the game ended.

"It was really sad. We all felt bad about it," she said. "It was great win for us, but at the same time, you feel for them."

Hansen said the incident was reported to Fresno police officers at the game, but he wasn't sure whether a formal report was filed Friday night. Officials at the Fresno Police Department did not respond Saturday to phone calls requesting information.

Kelly Avants, spokeswoman for Clovis Unified, said a police report would likely be filed after officials make a thorough inventory of what was stolen.

Sharp said he plans to meet with officials at McLane on Monday to try to help Clovis East in any way he can. "I will communicate with people at McLane, because we were the home team, and they [Clovis East] were our guests.

"I feel horrible about what happened," Sharp said. But he also said he doesn't want to make the incident "bigger than the game."

Said Sharp: "The bottom line is it took away from a very, very exciting environment, a good game."