MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
The Florida High School Athletic Association confirmed Monday that there is an investigation centering around the eligibility of Countryside quarterback Christian Strong.
Strong, a senior, missed Friday's game against Wiregrass Ranch but played in the first six games. If he is declared ineligible, the Cougars (6-1, 2-0) could have to forfeit those games, which include district victories against Seminole and Northeast.
FHSAA director of eligibility Michael Colby said there is no timetable for the investigation and the decision to sideline Strong is the school’s choice rather than a mandate from the association.
Colby would not confirm whether the investigation is a residency issue or a lack of paperwork.
“It could be both,” Colby said. “We are still waiting on some documents we asked from Countryside regarding those matters.”
Countryside football coach Jared Davis said Monday afternoon that Strong would remain benched until the school hears back from the FHSAA. Principal Gary Schlereth did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The Cougars another district game this week, at home Friday against Clearwater. Junior Robby Hicks will get the start if Strong doesn't play. Hicks started in last week's 56-0 win over Wiregrass Ranch, completing 16 of 26 passes for 252 yards and three TDs.
This incident comes on the heels of a recent Pinellas County School District Office of Professional Standards investigation into Schlereth, athletic director Lewis Curtwright and Davis.
OPS found that Countryside never turned in paperwork on former defensive backs coach Derrick Smith, who was removed as a coach after using sexually explicit language toward a player. He also had been flagged a no rehire by the county and never should have been considered for a coaching position.
Schlereth had been reprimanded in the past for not ensuring volunteers were processed properly, and Curtwright admitted in a letter to area superintendent William Corbett "that we had multiple volunteers who were not registered" for this school year. Both men received letters of reprimand, while Davis was issued a letter of caution.
Strong, who was born in Ottawa, moved to the Palm Harbor area just before his first birthday. He played in the youth leagues before moving back to Canada when he was 12. He transferred to Countryside in the spring and said he decided to move in with relatives in Clearwater.