To begin the high school football season, Southeast weathered rainouts and Hurricane Irma to start 5-0 and put itself in position to begin the next chapter in the Seminoles’ rich history.
Then an Oct. 20 road trip to Wauchula Hardee begin the fast spiral downward.
A post-game fight, after an emotionally-charged 24-21 loss, saw the Manatee County school district suspend six players for four weeks, effectively ending those players’ football seasons.
The Florida High School Athletic Association’s final judgment placed the program on administrative and restrictive probations as well as a $1,650 fine.
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The FHSAA’s Policy 9.14 limits schools to using only non-tax funds for the fine.
An email from FHSAA spokesman Kyle Niblett explained that non-public funding examples are gate receipts from athletic ticket sales and booster donations.
Ultimately, the school or school district determines how they collect the money to pay for the fine, but it can’t be from public school funding, according to Niblett.
The FHSAA takes that money and uses it for recognition items such as student scholarships, academic all-state banquets, sportsmanship awards and so on.
Even with that, Southeast overcame that adversity with a pivotal district-finale victory over Sarasota Booker on Oct. 27.
Then the Seminoles, anticipating a potential playoff run with a crucial season-ending senior night game against Osceola County’s Harmony High, were dealt the worst blow of all: six forfeits for using an academically ineligible player.
“Most of the time it is pretty simple, but there are cases that can get very complicated like kids coming from other schools,” Palmetto athletic director Kenny Ansbro said. “I’ve seen it in the past where the GPA has changed somehow in the system on a computer if it’s not in writing or you don’t see it physically.”
Ansbro said sometimes the GPAs don’t match in the databases that are used, and there’s also errors that can happen from a student-athlete taking summer classes that the grades aren’t entered or they went to another school where the student-athlete’s transcripts are kept by the old school.
Southeast self-reported the error.
“I feel bad for them, because they are self-reporting it so it’s almost like, ‘Hey, it was a mistake, an honest mistake,’” Ansbro said. “... Knowing most of our people, the people that I know, I just don’t see people purposely cheating.”
Following Southeast’s blowout victory over Harmony, head coach Rashad West said his kids showed what they were about as a program, they did not lay down and people wonder how they can come out and play after the week they’ve had.
“We can’t escape it,” West said. “We had to compartmentalize and play for those guys in that locker room, and play for those seniors.”
West said his players are resilient.
“(Friday), they just banded together, man, and played for each other and kind of shut out all the outside noise from the week,” West said.
The FHSAA is announcing the playoffs for all eight classifications, with first-round pairings and full brackets, in a show streamed at NFHSNetwork.com for a $9.95 subscription fee.
Feeling antsy and don’t want to pay the subscription fee?
Well, here’s a sneak peak at who made the playoffs from Manatee County, unofficially of course:
CLASS 8A-REGION 2
(*- Gateway gets the tiebreaker with more Category 1 and 2 wins)
1. Kissimmee Osceola, 8-0, 44.13
2. Vero Beach, 10-0, 42.22
3. Sarasota Riverview, 9-1, 40.40
4. Orlando Dr. Phillips, 8-2, 39.60
5. Haines City Ridge Community, 7-3, 38.30
6. Kissimmee Gateway, 6-4, 36.60*
7. Orlando Olympia, 6-4, 36.60
8. Manatee, 5-3, 36.13
Manatee at Kissimmee Osceola; Haines City Ridge Community at Orlando Dr. Phillips; Orlando Olympia at Vero Beach; Kissimmee Gateway at Sarasota Riverview.
CLASS 7A-REGION 3
1. Venice, 8-1, 42.22
2. Tampa Bay Tech, 9-1, 41.00
3. Pinellas Park, 8-2, 37.80
4. South Fort Myers, 3-4, 33.14
5. Braden River, 8-1, 41.89
6. Palmetto, 6-3, 38.67
7. Valrico Bloomingdale, 7-3, 36.40
8. St. Petersburg, 6-4, 36.10
St. Petersburg at Venice; Braden River at South Fort Myers; Valrico Bloomingdale at Tampa Bay Tech; Palmetto at Pinellas Park.
In Class 5A-Region 3, Southeast’s forfeits eliminated the Seminoles from playoff contention and Bayshore was eliminated before Week 11 even began. Cardinal Mooney was eliminated prior to the final regular season game, too, in Class 3A-Region 3.
Final Power Poll rankings
Here are the Herald’s final Power Poll rankings, separated between public and private school programs:
1. Braden River, 8-1
2. Palmetto, 6-3
3. Manatee, 5-3
4. Southeast, 2-6
5. Lakewood Ranch, 3-5
6. Bayshore, 3-5
1. IMG Blue, 7-0
2. Saint Stephen’s, 8-0
3. Cardinal Mooney, 4-5
4. Out-of-Door Academy, 6-2
5. Bradenton Christian, 4-6
6. IMG White, 3-4