Following the conclusion of the Class 7A state semifinal high school football game between Venice High and Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas last Friday, Aquinas head coach Roger Harriott refused to shake Venice coach John Peacock’s hand.
Harriott explained why he chose not to shake Peacock’s hand, which is customary, after STA won 38-18.
“I don’t think that he does a great job of showing the admiration and respect for other coaches and programs,” Harriott told SNN-6.
Peacock was embroiled in off-the-field controversy during the offseason involving district rival Braden River High. The Bradenton program was forced to forfeit spring football after video was sent to the FHSAA showing practices outside of the allotted spring football schedule.
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Venice High turned in Braden River. The day the penalties were handed out, Braden River High head coach Curt Bradley penned a letter to Peacock for his alleged role in a racially charged tweet directed at him by a player on Venice’s 2017 state title team. The tweet was a picture of sunblock with a caption asking Bradley, who is multiracial, if it’s the kind he uses.
Peacock liked the tweet, which led to his dismissal as Venice’s head coach. The Indians later brought him back before the season, though he was suspended for the first three games of 2018.
Venice principal Eric Jackson stated at the time that Peacock’s firing was due to a culmination of incidents he was involved in. Notably, Venice got into trouble the preceding season for allegedly trying to recruit a North Port High player to its program.
North Port turned in Venice, and the visiting coaches office at Venice High was littered with diapers and tissues when North Port traveled to Venice the subsequent season.
Peacock also has made his feelings known publicly about Aquinas, a team the Indians have played the past three seasons in the 7A semifinals.
After STA routed Venice in 2016, Peacock said his team didn’t have a chance from the start, because they were playing against a stacked deck — a reference to the talent-laden Raiders, who have sent countless players to Football Bowl Subdivision programs and the NFL through the years.
A woman interrupted Harriott’s postgame interview with the Miami Herald in 2016, too.
“They’re exploiting black men — black men from all across the country,” the fan said at the time. “They’re exploiting them. And when this is over they’re not going to have [expletive] to do with them.”
Bradley and Braden River offensive coordinator Eric Sanders were grad assistants at Syracuse when Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone hired Harriott to become his running backs coach in 2010. Harriott was there briefly, having a change of heart to return to South Florida at Davie University School. He later became the head coach at Aquinas.
“I just have a lot of respect for this industry,” Harriott told SNN-6 after Friday’s game. “I think think it’s more of a ministry than anything else.”
The Raiders play Lakeland in the 7A state title game Friday at 8 p.m. Lakeland last played Aquinas for a state title in 2008. The two also played in a 2006 state title thriller, which the Dreadnaughts won in double overtime after the Raiders recovered two onside kicks in the final minutes to erase a huge deficit.
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