Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Armwood title gone, but memories remain

My sons were part of the Armwood High football program for five years.

My younger son played on this year's championship team.

After attending Mulrennan Middle on special assignment, the boys moved on to Armwood, their neighborhood school. The football team helped them make the transition.

So because of all the obvious journalistic conflict of interest principles, I've stayed away from writing about the player eligibility controversy dogging the program.

Still, I haven't ignored the news accounts. Neither has Ethan.

He called me at work Tuesday, upset that the Florida High School Athletics Association ruled the Hawks must relinquish their trophy and pay more than $12,000 in fines and investigative costs. He didn't say the ruling was wrong, but I could hear the hurt in his voice.

A television reporter reached out to him seeking a comment. He said he wanted to respond, but I worried it might not be the best forum. I joked that his brother and sister recently wrote columns for the newspaper and maybe he could write one.

He didn't laugh, but he did write something.

As a father, I worry about the criticism he might receive. As a journalist, however, I've decided not to interfere with his First Amendment rights.

Here's what he wrote:

The FHSAA officials can take away our title, the monuments, the trophies, the honors, the public appearances and whatever else comes with winning the Class 6A state football championship.

But they can't take it all.

Through my four years being a part of the team, I have obtained a plethora of experiences that no association could ever take away.

All the seniors I played with my junior year join Matthew Hooper on my list of big brothers. Through their constant teasing and encouragement, they have left a mark on me — not with ink and paper, but with blood and tears.

They can't take that away.

My senior teammates, the Class of 2012, became my first friends when I started at Armwood four years ago, not really knowing anyone because I went to middle school in Valrico. I'll never relinquish those friendships because of some ruling.

The bonds we formed working out under those bleachers and how our friendship grew with every season will remain with me forever.

They can't take that away.

All the underclassmen who I jokingly designated as my proteges, who I've watched grow and become their own person despite some being obnoxious, will remain those loving thorns in my sides.

They can't take that away.

Every single one of my coaches who have inspired me to continue being my fun-loving self will stick with me for the rest of my life. Say what you want to say about head coach Sean Callahan, but he will forever remain one of the biggest influences in my life.

They can't take that away.

They can't take away the memories of our team's Las Vegas trip and me singing with teammate Skylar Clark in an airport restaurant.

They can't take away the big hugs of congratulations, the smiles on my teammates' faces after I scored my first touchdown against King.

They can't take away the moment at our last-hit ceremony when I read a poem that expressed my inner thoughts of being part of such a brotherhood.

They can't take away the self-proclaimed greatest victory run the Citrus Bowl has ever seen executed by me and the team after we won our state championship.

Most importantly, they can't take away one of my best friends on the team even though they deemed him "ineligible."

So go ahead, take the title. We know in our hearts that we left it all out on the field.

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