A heated boys lacrosse playoff game in Florida took a disturbing turn on Tuesday when a standout defenseman for one of the teams was ejected for throwing a punch at his opponent, then sucker punched another player while he was being escorted from the field, leaving the second punched player lying prone, stunned on the turf.
The player who threw the punch has since been suspended from school for the remainder of the week and was banned from any athletic participation for six weeks, though that suspension will have no weight as his team has already been eliminated from the state playoffs.
The incident occurred in Ft. Lauderdale, where regional power Boca Raton (Fla.) St. Andrews School was visiting traditional rival Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas School in a Florida High School Athletic Association Regional Final. As reported in detail by Wells Dusenbury of West Palm Beach's ESPN Radio affiliate, ESPN760, the ugly incident began when St. Thomas Aquinas defenseman Jake Champion threw a punch at a St. Andrew's player in the third quarter.
While the full reasons for Champion's punch remain unclear, the teenager had plenty to be upset about. St. Andrews had opened up a virtually unassailable 15-5 lead, and it was becoming more and more clear that the Raiders' once promising season would come to an end at the hand of the very regional rival they so longed to overtake yet again.
Whatever the reason, Champion clearly lost control of his emotions and was caught by referees in the process, earning himself an ejection from the game. Yet, it was while Champion was being escorted off the field that he delivered the strike that will almost certainly live on in Florida lacrosse infamy for some time. Just before leaving the extended field of play, Champion threw a full punch at an unsuspecting St. Andrews attackman, Jordan Todd, who didn't see the STA defenseman coming and appeared to be completely blindsided by the strike.
In fact, Todd was so shocked by the punch that he lay prostrate on the ground for a good 20-30 seconds before pulling his wits back together and lifting himself off the turf, at which point he was finally able to get himself back together and, eventually, go on to finish off the Scots' 20-6 victory.
"I was standing there and I just get hit in the face and I'm on the ground," Todd told ESPN760. "There's no place in the game for that."
Luckily for everyone involved, the other members of both teams kept cooler heads and avoided further physical incidents for the remainder of the game, even if most probably had a hard time moving beyond Champion's ugly incident, including his own coach.
As previously mentioned, and as reported by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Champion was suspended from all lacrosse action for six weeks, a ban which will begin immediately and will not force him to lose any meaningful action because St. Thomas Aquinas has already been eliminated from the playoffs.
"That doesn't really dictate what we're about as a program," St. Thomas Aquinas associate head lacrosse coach Jeff Goldberg, who is a former St. Andrews head coach, told ESPN760.
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