Three Miami stars miss start of season for 2010 brawl

Cameron Smith

In December, Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson High's Class 3A state title victory against Miami (Fla.) Norland High was marred by an ugly brawl which forced officials to abandon the final three seconds of the 44-34 Jefferson win.

Now the key members involved in that brawl on Norland's side are paying the price for the scrum, with three players -- star running back Duke Johnson, wide receiver Darren Owi and defensive lineman Teko Powell -- receiving suspensions of either one or two games for their involvement in the brawl.

Interestingly, Norland's coach was also suspended for one game because of a separate incident in the ugly state title loss.

According to the Miami Herald, Norland coach Daryle Heidelburg confirmed that Johnson was forced to sit out out of the team's preseason scrimmage against Miramar (Fla.) High on Friday and will also miss the season opening contest against Miami (Fla.) American High on Thursday. Owi and Powell both sat out the Miramar scrimmage but will be allowed to return against American.

While the punishments handed down by the Florida High School Athletic Association may fit the vitriol that marked the game-ending brawl in December, Heidelburg felt they ignored the effort put in by the Norland players to make amends with their mistakes.

"We were hoping after the kids followed everything asked of them, including community service and apologizing that perhaps they could forgo the suspensions, but it was a requirement from the beginning," Heidelburg told the Herald. "The kids understand and they accept it. Others will have to step up and we will move forward."

As for Heidelberg's ban itself, the coach received a one-game suspension related to an incident with the school's place kicker. After Norland kicker Cherchen Aloema missed a chip shot field goal in the title game, Heidelberg loudly berated him on the sideline and slapped his helmet. Officials later sent a video clip of Heidelberg slapping Aloema to the Norland administration, with the school's principal then suspending him for the preseason scrimmage as a penalty.

Heidelberg claimed that he had since apologized to his kicker and Aloema's family and that the incident was behind all involved, yet supported the decision to suspend him for a game. Now everyone will be interested to see if he and his team can cope with the loss of its biggest offensive weapon in a heated season opener.

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