Armwood uses an ineligible player, giving Middleton a win and the district title.
SEFFNER - Armwood's state-best winning streak is over at 21, but not because the Hawks lost on the field.
After being turned in this week for playing an ineligible player in last week's 27-7 victory over Middleton, Armwood was forced to forfeit that game. The Hawks, the defending Class 4A state champions, will now roll into the playoffs as the Class 4A, District 10 runnerup with a 7-1, 4-1 record, which means more playoff games on the road. Middleton, by virtue of the forfeit, becomes the district champion at 6-2, 4-1.
Armwood coach Sean Callahan said the mistake occurred after junior Alexander Joseph moved from his mother's home in South Carolina to live with his aunt in Armwood's district.
Joseph's aunt showed guardianship and residency papers to Armwood athletic director Danny Pickern, who, after interviewing Joseph, the aunt and the mother, granted permission for Joseph to participate on the football team.
The problem, Pickern said, was that he didn't go over the Florida High School Athletic Association's rulebook, which states that a transfer must live with his new guardian 12 months before he or she is allowed to participate in sports. Unless, that is, a hardship is granted by the FHSAA.
No hardship was requested and Joseph helped cover kickoffs for the Hawks against Middleton.
"All I can say is that it's going to take more than a cheap shot to keep us down," Callahan said. "We still feel like we're district champions and we're going to have T-shirts printed up that say that. We beat everybody soundly in our district, and what happened had nothing to do with us winning and losing games.
"If they want to try and take us down like that they can try. We'll just continue to make our statement on Friday nights."
On Friday against Plant, Armwood appeared to play with extra incentive, winning 49-0.
"This thing made us mad," Callahan said. "That was an angry Armwood team that played tonight."
Pickern, meantime, said he takes "the entire blame."
"What I hate is that our kids have to suffer for a mistake that I made," Pickern said. "We will appeal at a hardship hearing Dec. 2, which I know is after the fact. But maybe that will help show we were just trying to help this kid adjust to this environment.
"That's all I was trying to do, help a kid out."