The Florida High School Athletic Association handed down suspensions earlier this week for a pair of star linebackers that left more than a few football fans puzzled by the difference in the severity of the penalties.
Plant’s Reeves Rogers will miss three weeks, or two games total, for his illegal hit on a John Curtis Christian punt returner in the Panthers’ 33-3 loss on Sept. 7. The hit was caught on camera and drew an immediate rebuke from broadcasters, fans and reporters at the game.
Pending an appeal, Largo’s Harry Brown could miss six weeks, or five games total, for an altercation that happened late in last week’s game against Countryside. Officials from the game said Brown threw a punch while he was on the ground. But so far, there’s been no video evidence and a Countryside player wrote a letter saying Brown did not punch him.
The incidents were considered Level 2 infractions by the FHSAA, which carry up to six-game suspensions.
So what’s the difference? Why did Brown receive a penalty twice as harsh as Rogers’?
A review of the officials’ reports from the games provides a possible answer. The referees in the Plant game ruled “there appeared to be no malicious intent” by Rogers and “his reaction reflected regret for the contact.”
In Brown’s case, there was no explanation or supplemental information. The officials simply wrote: “At the 5 minute mark in the 4th quarter — (Brown) threw a punch at an opponent while both participants were on the ground.” End of report.
Without getting into specifics, FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers said the agency carefully considers each case based on the particular circumstances before rendering a judgment.
“It depends on the context of the situation,” Sobers said. “Not every punch is necessarily the same. …There’s a little wiggle room based on the event that occurred.”
Plant has accepted Rogers’ penalty and expects him to return for the Panthers’ game against Wharton on Oct. 5.
Meanwhile, Largo is still working to reduce Browns’ suspension.
In addition to the letter from Countryside offensive lineman Zach Rosinski — who said he was pushed on top of Brown at the end of a play — Largo has a copy of the Bright House broadcast of the game, which has the best shot of the skirmish. The letter, which says Brown tried to push Rosinski off but never punched him, helps bolster Largo’s argument that Brown was unfairly accused.
Brown will still miss Friday’s game against Osceola — an ejection means an automatic one-game suspension — but the Packers hope Brown might have his eligibility restored in time for the following week’s game against East Lake.