BROOKSVILLE — The status of their football team in jeopardy, about 75 backers of Nature Coast turned out Tuesday night at a Hernando County School Board meeting in an emotional expression of support.
"The referee is wrong," said parent Susanne Dockery, criticizing the officials' roles in the Nov. 7 brawl at Groveland South Lake that led to the team's suspension. "Being humans, referees sometimes get it wrong."
She said she couldn't believe what the referee claimed: that Nature Coast coach Jamie Joyner threw punches during the bench-clearing melee that followed a power outage at the game.
"What I believe to be true (is) that Coach Joyner would not willingly or knowingly harm any person on that field," Dockery said.
Joyner was suspended for six weeks by the Florida High School Athletic Association and suspended with pay by the school board pending an investigation. Senior lineman Brad Lucier was suspended indefinitely and the entire team was suspended for an undetermined period, putting its Class 3A playoff berth in jeopardy.
District officials said they would not take further action until the FHSAA issues its final ruling. But parents at Tuesday's meeting said the board should not wait for a ruling to stand by their team.
"Reading in the paper, what most affects me is the conjecture and speculation from other high schools in the county," said Greg Jerave, citing Joyner as a "major person for molding my son's character."
"What I was hoping to get from you guys is a vote of confidence," he said. "That you support our petition to get an injunction to let us play."
Ken Lucier criticized an "unacceptable investigation" and said his son acted honorably.
"His actions were based upon his devotion to his teammates and the athletic staff at Nature Coast High School," he said. "He is the type of person who would give everything he has and take nothing for himself."
Board members offered no comment on the investigation, but said they would support their school in any case.
"We need to stick by you until this thing is over," member Pat Fagan said. "You will have my support."