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December 27, 2012

Vacated titles and broke promoters

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As we come to a close in the year, it's time to take a look back at the landscape of high school football and see the '12 biggest stories' that shaped our season.

Numbers 10 and 9 happened in the spring - and sent shockwaves throughout the landscape for totally different reasons.

No. 10 - The 'Tainted Title'

After months of investigating, costing thousands of dollars, the Armwood Hawks finally learned that the Florida High School Athletic Association evidently operates by Roman law. You're guilty until you can prove yourself innocent.

Armwood self-reported an incident involving transfer player John Jack Lightsey and requested the FHSAA issue an eligibility ruling - that was in November.

In May, we all found out what we already knew - the Hawks would vacate all 15 wins from the 2011 season, give the trophy back and also forfeit 14 wins from 2010.

Effectively, Armwood vacated the 6A crown - but Miami Central also was forced to vacate its season - after being found to have had an ineligible player.

So - no one won the 6A crown. That was bad news for teams like Bartram Trail, Gainesville, Palm Bay and Mainland - which lost to Armwood and Miami Central along the way.

There is still speculation about who 'tipped' Action News about Ligthsey - but very little speculation about the end result of the inquisition.

At least five players were subsequently ruled ineligible - dating back to 2010.

At issue were conflicting stories, falsified leases, power bills that were dummied up. Armwood paid the $22,000 fine and moved on.

Not to be outdone, Dwyer (7A) also was forced to vacate wins after using an ineligible transfer. Dr. Phillips also vacated 14 wins from 2010 and lost its coach and athletic director - but that was in 2011.

No. 9 - Never trust an outside promoter

Manatee was all set. After traveling to Olney (Md) Our Lady of Good Counsel and hosting a double-header with Oradel (NJ) Bergen Catholic facing Plant and Ramsey (NJ) Don Bosco Prep - the Hurricanes were set to travel to Samammish (Wa) to face Skyline in a nationally-televised tilt.

That game never happened as the promoter informed Manatee head coach and athletic Director Joe Kinnan that he had no sponsor and would not be able to cover the travel costs.

Manatee tried for several weeks to work out a deal to bring in a national opponent - and created a game for the Wounded Warrior Project. In the end, the 'Canes faced two quality opponents from right here in Florida.

Miramar, the 8A runner-up, agreed to travel to Bradenton and play on ESPN on a Sunday to start the season. Meanwhile, Miami Central, the 6A vacated runner-up - traveled to Bradenton in mid September to face the Canes.

Oddly enough, Central came the closest to beating Manatee in the regular season.

While the chance to face national competition didn't really hurt the Hurricanes reputation-wise, the experience left Kinnan leery of outside promotion companies.



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