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Tempering their elation

On the eve of a postseason that one day very soon could be stricken from the record books, Armwood's football team walked through its last practice.

The Hawks, they are defiant.

Their coach, a bit angry.

Their thoughts, all burdened.

The Hawks begin the strangest of journeys tonight, a task never before attempted by a high school football team — to win a state and national championship knowing that, in the end, it may not even count pending an investigation over the eligibility of a player.

Welcome to the 2011 playoffs:

Three yards and a cloud of doubt.

"I think our case is strong," coach Sean Callahan said. "Would you like this not to be there? Of course. But these kids know exactly what has happened, exactly where this came from, and that's all they need to know."

Thursday afternoon, the Florida High School Athletic Association threw a bomb in Armwood's direction, initiating an investigation that centers around the eligibility of senior offensive lineman Jack Lightsey — namely, did his family rent an apartment in Seffner but not completely move there when he transferred from Orlando in the spring?

Callahan has long professed his program's innocence, claiming there are a number of factors he believes favor his school but declining to elaborate.

The FHSAA looked at all of that and decided to launch an official investigation.

If you are an Armwood player or fan or its coach, you can now officially get sick to your stomach.

Probably like they feel in Miami right now, where the team Armwood is expected to face for the Class 6A champion­ship, Miami Central, is facing the same scrutiny for a similar issue.

There, the district is looking into claims that standout quarterback Austin Stock gave a fake address when he left Parkland for Central.

It appears Stock and his mother have been living outside the district in a motel 15 miles away in Hollywood.

Why would Stock, one wonders, leave an upscale high school such as Parkland for inner-city Central, a school that according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel was nearly shut down after receiving F scores five of the past seven years?

Why would Lightsey end up in an apartment in Seffner instead of Indian Rocks Beach, where the family owns a home and their daughter goes to Largo High School?

Those are questions that have been asked and will now be answered.

And then there's the embarrassing possibility that after the fact, a Class 6A state title game could vanish from the record books, something only a swift investigation can help avoid.

"We are going to play five games and win five games and no one is going to stop that," Armwood offensive lineman Cody Waldrop said. "Coach told us even if it comes down after the season, they'll take the wins away from him and we're always going to be state champs."

For Armwood, its playoff run is already tainted, which will be a shame if the Hawks are cleared. They will play with an inescapable nagging thought: Is this going to be taken away from us?

If guilty, the Hawks' suffering cannot be measured. A state title could be taken away, maybe even a national one. This will make news from Seffner to Las Vegas, this will be an unwashable blight on the program.

Either way, they will keep on playing, and keep on wondering.

Every pass, every run.

Every score, every win.

In the end, will any of it matter?

Tempering their elation 11/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2011 10:09pm]
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