Florida team has 27 players suspended for massive brawl

Cameron Smith

The fact that Oakland Park (Fla.) Northeast High lost its first game of the season to Coral Springs (Fla.) High, 24-20, isn't an accomplishment. Yet it could be considered a serious coup that the school could even field a team at all after having a whopping 27 of its players suspended for at least one game for their actions in a brawl in the team's preseason finale against Palm Beach (Fla.) Central High.

As reported by both the Palm Beach Post and Miami Herald, the Florida High School Athletic Association suspended 27 members of the Northeast squad for their involvement in the brawl you see above, which ended the final preseason game of the 2011 season against Palm Beach Central. In total, the state governing body handed out 22 one-game suspensions, four two-game suspensions and one three-game suspension to members of the Hurricanes, though it refused to divulge which players received what length of ban.

Because of the standard fine attributed to all one-game disciplinary suspensions, Northeast was also handed a $5,250 fine from the FHSAA. Despite the fact the suspension and fine could be considered harsh punishments, Northeast's athletic director, Mark Kitman, said he agreed with the FHSAA's disciplinary measures.

"I can't argue with what the FHSAA says," Kitman told the Herald. "Everyone's aware of their responsibility, and we're moving forward in a positive manner. We're beyond it now, everyone knows what they need to do."

According to the Palm Beach Post, it was impossible to tell exactly who started the massive brawl that precipitated these near-record suspensions, but Palm Beach Central running back Lloyd Howard was reportedly in the middle of the scrum after being the recipient of a particularly hard block from a Northeast player on an interception return after a blown whistle.

Eventually, only two officials penalties stood on the play -- both were unsportsmanlike conduct penalties against Northeast -- largely because there were so many penalties against both teams that canceled each other out. While coaches are the first authorities who are asked to restore order in situations precisely like the one that unfolded during the brawl, neither coach was willing to comment on the incident to the local press.

"I have no comment about all of that," Palm Beach Central coach Rod Harris told the Palm Beach Post. "It's a preseason game. We don't want anybody getting hurt or things to escalate."

Tellingly, his counterpart at Northeast, Donnell Bennett, was even more silent.

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