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Nature Coast boosters prepare to file injunction

BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast has started CPR on its football season.

The Nature Coast booster club began the process of filing an injunction in Hernando County court Thursday but missed the filing deadline by 30 seconds.

"They slammed the door right in my face," booster club member Greg Jarque said.

The request is to reject a ruling by the Florida High School Athletic Association that disqualifies the Sharks from tonight's Class 3A region quarterfinal against Williston.

The injunction, which had to be signed by a member of the FHSAA, will be filed shortly after court opens at 8 a.m. today, and a ruling could come quickly. If a judge rules in favor of the boosters, the game could be played tonight.

FHSAA spokeswoman Cristina Alvarez said in an e-mail the organization would "cross that bridge when we get to it."

The FHSAA also penalized the Sharks $10,400 and stripped them of a spring game for their role in a bench-clearing brawl Nov. 7 at Groveland South Lake. South Lake received similar penalties and an $8,500 fine. Both teams would be eligible for postseason play in 2009 upon completion of a sportsmanship education program.

Nature Coast maintains many of its players followed a plan of action to retreat to the fence line and are being unjustly punished.

"I'm in search of the truth," Nature Coast principal Tizzy Schoelles said. "Somebody at Nature Coast did the right thing. Lots of them say they did the right thing. Where's the evidence that says they did the wrong thing, specifically number by number."

Schoelles faxed an appeal to the FHSAA on Thursday afternoon and planned to call executive director John Stewart today. Stewart could change his position or let the FHSAA board hear the appeal when it meets this month.

A movement to file an injunction gained steam Wednesday night after Schoelles said she spoke with school board member Pat Fagan.

"Sometime (Thursday) morning Jarque got a nod of approval from (Hernando) superintendent (Wayne Alexander), Pat Fagan and the (school board) attorney to go ahead and see if they could seek an injunction on behalf of the kids to be able to play," Schoelles said.

Jarque said: "The message was they support us fully. They are not able to round up the troops and have anyone from the legal point of the school board to do this, but they fully support it and gave their blessing."

Alexander told the St. Petersburg Times the district could not take sides.

"As far as we're concerned, the (FHSAA) is the decision-making body when it comes to these particular infractions," he said. "Their word is the final word."

Alexander confirmed Nature Coast officials filed an appeal, but said the district and school board had taken no part in that process or in the court injunction.

He said there had been no change in the employment status of coach Jamie Joyner, who was suspended with pay following the incident. But Alexander said the district planned to conduct an investigation into Joyner's actions.

To help with the injunction, Joyner said he recalled a 2002 case when Madison County successfully filed an injunction to host a home playoff game sanctioned by the FHSAA. The school had been prohibited from doing so due to a probation stipulation.

Jarque contacted Madison County coach Frankie Carroll and was referred to the attorney in that case. Within an hour, Jarque received a fax of the case file.

Meanwhile, Lake County continued its investigation into criminal claims against four Nature Coast players and one South Lake player. The investigation slowed once Nature Coast refused to hand over student contact information without a subpoena.

Nature Coast did not practice Thursday, but Joyner said the team is ready to play. He would not be permitted to coach or be on campus during the event.

"Just for them to take the field and be able to play would be everything," Joyner said. "I don't want to see it taken away from them."

Williston coach Jamie Baker said his team also is prepared, but the uncertainty has taken a toll.

"I'm going to wait and see what everyone tells us tomorrow," Baker said. "We'll do what they tell us to do."

Staff writer Tom Marshall contributed to this report.

Nature Coast boosters prepare to file injunction 11/20/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 4:53pm]
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