Countryside head coach David Sica and junior starting midfielder Nikolai Hammer have been suspended six weeks by the Florida High School Athletic Association for separate incidents Thursday in the Cougars' 1-0 loss to East Lake.
Hammer’s suspension stems from a red card he was shown in the game’s 49th minute.
In an Unsportsmanlike Conduct Incident Report Form sent by head referee Richard Seroia to the FHSAA the morning after the contest, Seroia wrote that Hammer “violently punched the opponent in the side,” which led to a straight red card ejection. Seroia went on to write that Hammer directed an expletive toward him as he exited the field.
Later, in the 69th minute, Countryside’s Kyle Eichof was red carded for violent conduct. At this point, according to the Seroia’s report, “Sica rushed onto the field and began dissenting. He was cautioned for each of these actions and disqualified for subsequent caution.”
After leaving the field, Seroia wrote that Sica stood “outside of the fence but within the stadium in direct view of the field, behind the goal, about 30 yards from the field.”
The FHSAA classifies Sica’s and Hammer’s punishments as Level 2 suspensions.
In addition, Eichof has been suspended two games, an automatic Level 1 suspension handed to any player receiving a red card, and Sica has been fined $250.
Sica filed an appeal to both six-week suspensions Friday with the FHSAA. The coach refutes the referee’s claim that Hammer threw a punch. He also says claims that he rushed the field and failed to exit from view of the playing area are erroneous.
“I built my reputation on doing the right thing, and here we are being accused of doing these heinous things,” he said. “…It’s tough to swallow that pill. I can’t sit idly by.”
If Sica and Hammer were to serve the full six-week suspension, they would not be eligible until the district final should Countryside make it that far. The Cougars are currently playing without Sica and Hammer in the High School Classic at Tampa’s Ed Radice Sports Complex, where the team could play a total of five games, meaning the duo could miss up to 13 games.
Both Sica and Hammer are allowed to practice with the team during their suspensions.
Sica was unsure how long it would take the FHSAA to review the matter and whether the upcoming holiday break would delay any such review.