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TAMPA – Gaither High School has been fined $3,200 and issued 19 one-game player suspensions by the Florida High School Athletic Association for its part in a bench-clearing altercation during the Cowboys’ football game against Alonso two Fridays ago, according to documents obtained by the Times.
Alonso received a $600 fine and has been issued three one-game player suspensions for a second separate altercation near the end of the Ravens' 33-7 win over the Cowboys.
Gaither received 32 separate $100 fines -- one count of failure to comply, 14 counts of a student athlete on the bench participating in an altercation and 17 counts of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Alonso received six $100 fines – one count of failure to comply, three counts of a student athlete on the bench participating in an altercation and two counts of unsportsmanlike conduct.
Both programs are also placed on administrative probation until the end of the 2011-12 school year, meaning further violations "will result in increased penalties which may include expulsion." Also, both schools received a letter of reprimand from the FHSAA.
The FHSAA ruling stems from a review of the game film by Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson.
In documents obtained by the Times, Robinson reported two bench-clearing incidents to the FHSAA and reported numbers of players involved.
In the first incident, Robinson wrote that an unnamed Alonso player, after returning an interception for a touchdown, committed an “unsporting act” that drew a penalty flag. Gaither players “took exception and went onto the field.”
“Additionally, Alonso players went onto the field, so there were a lot of players on the field that should not have been at the time,” Robinson wrote. “Due to the position of the camera (being on the home side), it is only visible as to which players from Gaither left the bench area.”
Alonso defensive end Anthony Chickillo reportedly returned an interception for a touchdown before the altercations.
Robinson also describes a second incident, in which there was “some extracurricular action in front of the Gaither bench.” Gaither players were held back, but Robinson said that three Alonso offensive players ran across the field to become involved.
“These players did not have any reason to be on the field at the time because they were offensive players and it was time for their defense to be on the field,” Robinson wrote.
Alonso coach Lee Meitzler said three Alonso players were suspended for Friday's regular-season finale against Armwood. Gaither's season is over, so student athletes who play a winter or spring sport will serve the suspension in their next game. Those returning players who only participate in football will serve it in the 2011 season opener.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)