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Football: (UPDATE: 2:37) Land O'Lakes coach Matt Kitchie using 'break-in' as motivation

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Thu. October 29, 2009 | Izzy Gould | Email

The incident occured during the summer.

Land O'Lakes coach Matt Kitchie said someone had broken into the weight room, vandelized it and stole football equipment. The school filed a police report, Kitchie said, but there was not enough evidence to charge anyone with a crime.

Through the grapevine of rumors, Kitchie said he believes someone with Sunlake ties did the damage.

Kitchie said 'Sunlake' was spray painted on a mirror in teal paint. He also said items such as new cleats and gloves were missing.

Asked specifically if he was accusing Sunlake football players of the crime, Kitchie said, "I'm not accusing them of anything. I'm just using it as motivation."

Sunlake coach Bill Browning said he was surprised by Kitchie's comments when reached Thursday afternoon.

"They did come to me," Browning said. "I knew the locker room was broken into. There was an investigation. I don't believe any of my players did it."

When told Kitchie said he was using the incident as motivation, Browning said, "That tells me they're beginning to worry about us at Sunlake. The first two years we were kind of a joke."

Browning said he believes there's no merit to the accusation, and was told by an administrator no one could rule out if the break in was an "inside job."

Browning specifically addressed the word "Sunlake" painted on a mirror. He said coaches will often create a ruse to motivate their own players, sometimes leaving obvious hints an opponent was to blame.

"Just because Sunlake was written on the mirror? That's the oldest trick in the book," Browning said. "To go to the papers with this is pretty classless."

So now, on the eve of the third meeting between these programs, Kitchie has asked his players to take back their pride if nothing else. Browning did not say how he would spin it at Thursday's practice.

The Gators need a victory for a chance to earn a playoff berth next week at Mitchell. Land O'Lakes is in search of its 13th consecutive playoff berth, its first under Kitchie. 

Sunlake is trying to build on success it has had this season, including its first three-win season and possibly more. Browning said the majority of his seniors were cut from the Land O'Lakes JV program three years ago, and to beat their former school is motivation enough.

Land O'Lakes has defeated Sunlake in its prior two meetings by a combined score of 54-0.

"As far as my kids, I'm pretty proud of them," Browning said.

igould@sptimes.com

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