BRADENTON -- Manatee High defensive end Kwanzi Jackson is likely to be reinstated to the team after a court hearing Wednesday released him from juvenile probation stemming from burglary charges.
But the chances of nationally touted running back Johnnie Lang, who was arrested in the same incident, returning to the Hurricanes before the season starts is in serious jeopardy.
It has been that kind of week for Manatee's storied football program, a mixture of good and bad news.
Jackson was the Herald All-Area Defensive Player of the Year last season after recording 25 quarterback sacks and 75 solo tackles.
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Lang was the Offensive Player of the Year, churning out 2,116 yards rushing with 32 rushing touchdowns.
The duo, along with teammate Malik Mitchell, got in trouble back in March when they were arrested for burglary to an unoccupied dwelling.
Lang and Mitchell were charged with a second-degree felony, and their cases are in adult court. The 16-year-old Jackson saw his case sent to juvenile court.
They missed spring practice and remain on the suspended list pending their legal situations. Jackson, who has never been convicted of a crime, could be eligible to return to the team immediately under School District of Manatee County policy.
A Case Management Conference involving Lang last week failed to resolve issues regarding the charges against him. Lang and Mitchell are set to go to separate trials during a two-week period beginning Sept. 21.
It means even if Lang is found innocent, he will miss nearly half the regular season. Manatee begins its season Aug. 28 at national power Hoover (Ala.) and will have played four regular season games by Sept. 18, which is the date of its first district game.
Things are better for Jackson. Adjudication was withheld and his probation was terminated on Wednesday, opening the doors for him to return to the team pending approval by Manatee Principal Don Sauer.
"Mr. Sauer was out today. It's up to the principal and we follow the school district policy," Manatee High athletic director Jason Montgomery said. "He (Jackson) can be reinstated immediately. Kwanzi has done everything that has been asked of him. I don't think there is going to be an issue, but that is up to Mr. Sauer."
The Department of Juvenile Justice recommended Jackson complete a list of sanctions prior to a Sept. 16 court date.
Sanctions set against Jackson included:
Writing a letter of apology and an essay on how to be a role model.
Completing 30 hours of community service.
Having no contact with the victim or the home.
Keeping a curfew.
Submitting to random urinalysis.
Having no contact with co-defendants in the case.
Obeying all laws,
Jackson appeared before Senior Circuit Judge John Lenderman in juvenile court Wednesday morning. A probation officer recommended Jackson's probation be terminated early, saying he had completed all his requirements.
Assistant State Attorney Khalil Madani objected to the recommendation, explaining that the sanctions were for four months so they could not be completed until that time period had passed.
Jackson's parents detailed his time spent doing community service and with his terminally ill grandfather since his last court appearance.
Jackson spoke briefly in court, telling Lenderman he was ready to move forward.
"I'm impressed," Lenderman said. "I'm not easily impressed, but I'm impressed."
After saying he would terminate Jackson's probation, Lenderman told him that he still needed to obey his parents.
"At least for the rest of the summer, you have an 8 p.m. curfew at home that your mom and dad are in charge of," Lenderman said, looking at Jackson.
Lenderman then looked at Jackson's parents as he continued to speak.
"You're his probation officers now, and as a probation officer for the court you are going to make him be in at 8 p.m. at night. If he isn't, take care of it, take care of business," Lenderman said.
Jackson was ordered to pay court costs before Lenderman would sign off on the termination.
Under the School District of Manatee County policy a student convicted of a felony loses his eligibility to participate in any student activity for the duration of the years he or she is enrolled in a Manatee County public high school from the time of conviction. After one year following the conviction, the student may request a review of his eligibility to the principal.
A student convicted of a misdemeanor involving assault or battery, possession of concealed weapons, lewdness or indecent exposure, theft, drug possession/sale will lose eligibility for six months following conviction, but after three months may request a review. If the misdemeanor does not fall into any of the previously mentioned categories the student athlete can participate in athletics.
All three players are entering their senior seasons.
"Again, we follow the policy that people are suspended until there is a resolution; that is how you proceed," Montgomery said. "At the end of the day that is what I like about this administration. It follows the policy and we are trying to do what is best for the school and the student involved. Once there is a resolution we follow board policy."
Lang verbally committed to West Virginia last March and reportedly has offers from Florida State, Arizona, Kentucky and Temple and has attended several USF camps. Jackson committed to Tulane, but is keeping his options open and recently received an offer from Toledo.