2012 transfers also feeling the heat at Armwood

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Wed. May 16, 2012 | Joey Knight | Email

2012 transfers also feeling the heat at Armwood

The ripple effect of the Florida High School Athletic Association’s six-month investigation into Armwood High School’s football program has stretched to at least a half-dozen players who have yet to slip on a game jersey for the Hawks.

As a result of that probe, they won’t wear one any time soon.

Five players who have transferred to Armwood since the end of the 2011 season have been deemed ineligible for competition at this point, according to the FHSAA’s 45-page report released Monday.

The report determined the 2011 state championship team used five other ineligible players who provided falsified residence information to gain eligibility. The end of the report indicates the five who have arrived from other schools in 2012 have been sidelined for next week’s spring jamboree by principal Mike Ippolito.

On Monday, Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia suggested scrutiny will increase greatly on future transfers.

“We had things that were happening where parents were not giving us the truth,” Elia said. “And I think it’s clear that we have to step up the process to make sure that we check and verify every piece of paper that is used in eligibility.”

Four of the five new arrivals played for other programs last season: linemen Gabe Nold (Wharton) and Aaron Evans (Seffner Christian), cornerback Markis Firlow (Middleton) and linebacker/running back Omar Gordon (Brandon). It’s unclear which school the fifth transfer, Yassine Ouazzani, attended last fall.

Additionally, King coach Alvin Davis said 6-foot-6, 220-pound rising senior Zerric Coleman — who played for the Lions last season — has moved to Armwood.

Hawks coach Sean Callahan said Wednesday that Coleman hasn’t practiced with the team all spring. Both Evans and Nold were practicing with the team as recently as Monday.

The report says FHSAA investigator Troy Pumphrey asked Ippolito for a list of student-athletes who transferred to Armwood after the ’11 season. In late March, Ippolito sent Pumphrey the names of the five, who had “expressed an interest in participating in football workouts.”

According to the report, Ippolito sidelined three — Evans, Firlow and Nold — over concerns of whether they made a “full and complete” move into Armwood’s geographic school district, as FHSAA bylaws require. Pumphrey also noted that though Ippolito said he had immediate reservations about the validity of Nold’s move, “he intends to wait until the summer to send school security to verify residency.”

The other two players were deemed ineligible for the jamboree over concerns about their addresses.

Nold and Evans, standouts at their former schools, were projected to have an immediate impact for a Hawks team that lost every starting offensive lineman from last season to graduation.

When, or if, they’ll regain eligibility  is anyone’s guess.

“I’d think that (Ippolito) would double his efforts in investigating the circumstances of those transfer students,” FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing said.

Pumphrey already has, at least in Nold’s case.

According to his report, Nold transferred to Armwood in late February, providing the address of an apartment complex that also has housed offensive lineman Jack Lightsey — the Orlando Dr. Phillips transfer whose move kicked off the FHSAA’s investigation — and current quarterback Darryl Richardson, who transferred from Tampa Bay Tech in early 2011.

But Pumphrey reported having seen all three family vehicles and two family members at their former residence in Wharton’s district on more than one occasion. He also reported “student Nold and his father John Nold have been observed getting a newspaper early in the morning, cutting grass and driving in and out of the garage.”

John Nold declined comment, but indicated he intends to keep his son at Armwood.

Evans’ half-mile move from Seffner Christian to Armwood was reported by the Times in late February. Seffner Christian coach Steve Lewis, however, said he suspected no “foul play” in the move.

Joey Knight can be reached at jknight@tampabay.com

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