By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS (WCCO) — A Columbia Heights High School basketball player is recovering after another athlete punched him in the face.

Senior Zach Lofton’s team was playing Patrick Henry High School in a sectional playoff game Thursday night when things turned violent.

“He punched me. He stood over me and punched me,” said Zach, who’s at home in St. Paul recovering from the hit.

It’s an unexpected day off from class for him following that unexpected punch in the face in the second half of the game.

“The bump right here,” he said, as he pointed to the bump below his right eye. He also has scars on the top of that eye.

He blames the star athlete, Jeff Bright, from Patrick Henry High School. He thinks Bright lost his cool under pressure. Both teams were trying to advance towards the State tournament.

“I went up for a layup. He grabbed me. I didn’t know if he was trying to stay up or keep his balance. Then he let go. He hit me. He hit me in the eye,” Zach said. “And then I believe he tried to hit me again. I rolled over, and then people grabbed him. They all grabbed him, separated us. ”

Both benches cleared and everyone in the stands ran out onto the court.

“I literally jumped on the floor and tried to protect my baby,” said Zach’s mother, Tonia, who watched in horror from the bleachers.

When she finally raced down the steps and got to the floor, she couldn’t find Zach.

“It was chaotic. Very chaotic and scary for me as a mom,” she recalled. “It just hurts my heart. A mom never wants to see her son intentionally punched in the face, so that was real hard for me to watch. Real, real hard.”

The two later re-united with help from family and friends.

Columbia Heights Police Officers got called and got everyone out of the gym too.
Zach needed ice on his eye after Bright’s blow.

“I didn’t know if he was frustrated. I don’t know what was going on with him. He felt he needed to hit me,” Zach said, adding he doesn’t feel Bright needs to be charged with a crime.

Patrick Henry’s Coach told WCCO–TV on Thursday night that Bright is a good student and mild-mannered player. He’s highly regarded, but lost control after a play.

Patrick Henry’s coaches decided to forfeit the game, so now Columbia Heights will continue with the playoffs leading up to State.

Columbia Heights Police are not pushing the Hennepin County Attorney to charge Bright. Police see this as any other fight at a high school sports game, hockey included.

The Minneapolis School District provided a statement on the situation.

“Contributing to a safe and secure environment at school events is a top priority. Violent behavior is unacceptable and is not tolerated at school events. We have expressed our apologies to the Columbia Heights school district. We are committed to following the MPS discipline policy in all matters involving physical violence,” Stan Alleyne, Executive Director of Communications for Minneapolis Public Schools, wrote.

It’s time, Zach says, to move on and play ball again.

“It’s done. I forgive him. He did it. It’s over,” said Zach.

Comments (28)
  1. JamieinMN says:

    BFD. People get punched every day…even worse, KILLED.

    1. dcdcdcdcdcdcdcdcc says:

      what they didnt include in here is what zach did to him. jeff bright was getting elbowed all game by zach lofton. jeff bright has 5 chipped teeth. couldnt eat or drink for 3 days because of the pain so next time they want to put this on here… know both of the stories.

      1. WCCO was given entire game footage says:

        WCCO was given footage of the entire game, from the beginning until the incident occurred. Therefore, if they had viewed Zach doing anything to someone on the court they would have aired that as well. If you would like, I am sure WCCO would be more than willing to view the entire game for Jeff and air his side of the story. Perhaps he could point out the place in the game where he was intentionally hurt or hit by Zach Lofton? Video does not lie. But usually even when people see things with their own eyes, they still don’t believe it ?!

    2. We Know Who The True Athletes Are, Others Just Have Skill says:

      ahaha woah,, this is beyond petty. Zach and his Mom should have a sitcom,, Obviously tension rose an action sparked a reaction and the one guy got a love tap. Now if it was a melee of punches like the news and columbia height spectators stated, why is it that what is seen on the footage is one strike to the face. Now all of those people who entertain this story as if it was a major crime should be arrested.
      I would like to finish with we know who the true athletes are. Zach Lofton reminds me of Cortland Finnegan from the Tennesee Titans.

  2. trebor says:

    jamieinmn & jim it takes two of you to make a half-wit

    1. JamieinMN says:

      Really? Considering the few recommendations for this story, I’m not the only one who doesn’t think this is newsworthy. Go crawl back under your rock.

  3. jac unruh says:

    maybe if there wasn’t such pressure on these kids that they have to be the best, we could get back to what school sports really should be.

  4. merks says:

    patrick henry has always been gang member wannabes. This doesn’t shock me in the least

    1. Wilson says:

      Have you ever been to Patrick Henry?!

  5. Huh? says:

    Does anyone else find it odd that getting punched gets you a day off of school?

    1. Mike Kettle says:

      i know the kid jeff bright known him since first grade he is a calm and humble kid the reason why this kid got hit in his eye is cause he elbowed jeff in mouth while he was heading for the layup but the kid only got a swollen eye jeff has 3 broken teeth what weighs more

      1. Grant Nichols says:

        Really. Cause if he had 3 broken teeth? Why was he playing? I played back in 92 and 93 and you can’t be on the floor with that kind of injury. 2nd I have video up close ok the first seat at the game. your boy lies. Careful I don’t bring it to the Minneapolis police to show proof of the Malicious Punch and the kick after when he walked over him. Looks like you got lied too. Also only a few people went on the court. It was not everyone in the stands. Talk about dumb drama.

      2. Tisha Rodgers says:

        This is regarding the comment after this one, jeff didn’t have 3 broken teeth until after he was elbowed in the mouth after Zach went up for the layup. If you think it’s okay for someone to taste their teeth in their mouth after a layup, then you’re truly mistaken. The rules from ’92 and ’93 are way different that the rules today.

  6. a spectator... says:

    I think he his mom kept him out of school due to the climate the punch caused. There were some hard feelings from both sides. As fb shows, his presence would have been a real disturbance in class…

  7. Grant Nichols says:

    . There was No punches or No altercations after the incident. Coach Braziel and his Kids Handled themselves like Champs. I am proud that I grew up here, I am proud I went to School here, I am also Proud my Kids go to School here, I am also glad I got to represent the City and the School Playing Basketball for them. Right now and most of all I am Proud of those Kids and there Coaches. They have endured people chanting Food Stamps at games, To Peoples kids throwing punches, To refs thinking they are thugs. There just playing Basketball like all the others out there. I live in this City and I grew up here. So please do not state hear say stuff about my Home. I would not do that too you at all. We are a Small Community but we are a tight Community that supports one another. Just cause we are not getting trampled on like a few years back does not mean they do not deserve respect. Now if that happen and a fan makes a comment at the opposing bench. That Fan or Parent should be EJECTED immediately. They are there as a spectator. The ones that went to Aid Zach Lofton where Family making sure he got back tot he dressing room. That is all. They did not punch or start fights. They where on the Defensive and trying to get Zach away from that as well as Coach Braziel and his Assistants. The refs should of put a stop to it immediately. They just sat around and watched while coaches and Security separated it. I am a eye witness to what happen as well as a paying contributor to the city and my School District. You want to fight them. Do it on the Court fair and square. People that do what The Patrick Henry Kid did was Cowardly. These kids work there butts off to be a straight forward team and make something of themselves some day in society. So what we teaching them? I think to some of you. You seriously need to grow up a bit. They act more Adult then you do. Good luck to both Totino Grace and Columbia Heights next round. Lets have a Safe, Fun and Great game to watch like the one the other week. He has some of the best qualities that being Zach. He could of pushed for Assault Charges but understands that things get heated in game time and we move on. See you all on Tue. in Blaine. Should be a great Game. I want to make sure everyone knows this. The Family was just concerned and I am sure that if it was your kid you would want to get them out of that situation also. If not I feel sorry for your kid. Priorities are screwed up these days. Any School or College is going to get a superstar with this kid someday. He is mature and cares about the game. Is that not the point. For the love of the game. Anyway sorry for me putting my 5 cents in it. Good luck to all the teams in there playoff runs. Grant

    1. a ref says:

      you mentioned that the Referees watched this all happen, that is what they are trained to do. It is not their job to break things up, it is the Coaches job to handle the benches and players which neither side did, the fans are to be taken care of by security and the local administration. No official is to engage in a situation like that. If Mrs Lofton keeps herself in the stands WHERE SHE BELONGS!!!!!!!!!!! nothing happens. The tape does not lie, the officials did their job by ejecting the offending player immediately the players on the court did not react to the initial incidence, the benches did not react. NOT UNTIL MRS LOFTON leaves the stands does anything escalate. I believe she was banned from any further games due to her actions. Make no mistake about this fact. She was the SINGLE REASON THIS ESCALATED beyond what it needed to.

  8. JB says:

    In the ghetto…..

    1. Wilson says:

      As somebody from the “ghetto” I would really like for you to continue with this comment. Because i’m assuming you are from the Suburbs, am I correct? If so..
      In the suburbs…..they teach people how to be racist and ignorant…..

    2. Terrell Greene says:

      1/13 84-78.. It wasn’t that henry was incapable of winning, it’s jux blood boiled calls weren’t made and some guys from your well handled team made disrespectful gestures and slurs that “lead” to face cramps like your star Zach experienced. There would have been no negative comments made from henry’s side because those gangster out of control kids humble themselves proudly for every action and keep their heads rasied even after negative allegatios such as those from ur peer-surburbans.. p.s. patriots are us

  9. zee the reporter says:

    I punch someone everyday it’s what i do and i do it well! zee reporting!

  10. Jane says:

    If they don’t want any action taken why the front page story? Are they looking for some low life lawyer and $$$?

    1. Tonia Lofton says:

      Ignorant comment! It was to bring attention to violence on the court. To bring it to a stop before someone elses child is seriously hurt. The only type of person who would make a comment like this – is one who thinks like that!

      Now I am beginning to understand why people use just a first name or an alias when they choose to make comments!

    2. KATHY J says:


      1. KATHY J says:


  11. A Hylander ( Monique) says:

    We love Zach Lofton ,, this type of stuff happens everytime we begin taking the led or when zach is going ham ,, but this shouldnt have never ended with a punch ,, Zach’s good ,, we good ,, so once again we will join together at blaine && cheer our Hylanders on soo we can make it to state
    _signed a true hyhlander

  12. coach k says:

    Just Think What Doesnt Get Caught On Cameras… Ive Seen This In All Sports.. I Bet He Realized He Did Wrong And Most Likely Will Grow From That Experience And Never Do It Again.. We Need To Move On As Well

  13. guido says:

    Media blows stuff up lets just be thankful nothin else bad happened, everyones ok so lets drop it. Both schools have there ups and downs, one kid made a mistake and thank god Zach was a grownup about it and didnt press charges. Im sure the other kid is a good kid too, just heat of the moment.

  14. Test Anchor martial arts says:

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