Plant City junior quarterback Bennie Coney, one of the bay area’s top recruits in the Class of 2012, has been dismissed from the team for a undisclosed violation of team rules, Raiders coach Wayne Ward confirmed Wednesday morning.
It's the second time this season Ward has suspended Coney, who owns offers from the likes of Florida State, Notre Dame and Auburn.
Ward benched Coney for a important district game against Newsome four weeks ago, but he started the next week.
"It's heartbreaking," Ward said. "I love this kid. He's like a son to me, but it's something we'll get through as a family. We break on family in every practice and we'll get through it as one."
Ward said the situation is ongoing and referred all further questions regarding Coney's suspension to school administration, but said the Raiders (4-3) will go on with sophomore Nick Rodriguez as the starter. Rodriguez started the Newsome game and threw for 227 yards and one touchdown and ran for another in a 24-21 loss. He will make his second start of the season this week at Riverview.
Coney emerged last season as one of the county's top young talents under the tutelage of Ward, the Raiders' offensive coordinator at the time under coach Jason Strunk.
When Ward, a first-year head coach and 1997 Plant City grad, first suspended Coney for arguably the teams' biggest game of the year, it sent a message that no player was above the team. When Coney returned, he said he was glad Ward punished him and expressed he needed to grow up and become a better leader on and off the season. Ward said then he believed his signal caller had learned his lesson and would be better for it.
A 6-foot-2, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback, Coney has thrown for 1159 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while rushing for 363 yards (7.56 yards per carry) and five touchdowns.
Coney has at least a dozen Division I-A offers, and last week said he was favoring Florida State over Notre Dame as his top schools.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)