Eagles overcome suspensions for opening win

Coach still miffed over earlier incident

By Scott Purks
Published December 28, 2006

TAMPA - Coach Mark Hermann's Brandon team had just beaten Dixie Hollins 64-58 in Wednesday's first round of the Hooters Holiday Shootout, yet he was still plenty steamed about an incident weeks before.

What stuck in Hermann's craw dated to the last time Brandon played, Dec. 15, when his Eagles were involved in a melee in the opening minutes of a game at Plant City High; a skirmish that had the crowd spilling onto the floor and mixing it up with players from both teams.

Brandon 8-2, with a 2-0 lead, decided to go home after the altercation. In the following days Brandon and Plant City were busy dealing with the county athletic office and Florida High School Athletic Association. What came out of it, at least as of Wednesday, was a six-week suspension of one Brandon starter, guard Mike Brown, and a two-week suspension of six players off Brandon's bench, none of whom will dress this week for the tournament.

"And that is what irritates me," Hermann said. "Six of my players are being robbed of playing in this tournament even though they didn't do anything wrong. My (kids on the bench) did nothing wrong that night (in Plant City). Nothing!

"The fact is we were attacked, attacked by dozens of Plant City fans. I turned around and our assistant coaches were around (the bench players). But (the fans) kept coming and they attacked us. They punched and swung at my kids, and my kids didn't do anything in return. It's so wrong I can't even begin to tell you."

Hermann said he is in the process of appealing, but has no idea how it will turn out.

"(The FHSAA and county athletic offices) said they wanted to see a tape but nobody had a tape," Hermann said. "But the absolute truth is that we were attacked. Brandon High and these kids are getting wronged, totally and completely."

The FHSAA initially suspended Brandon's entire team, but after further investigation the present suspensions were levied against the Eagles.

According to reports filed to the county offices and FHSAA, the incident was sparked by an oncourt altercation between Brown and Plant City sophomore Denzel Drone.

Several eyewitnesses concur that dozens of fans ran on the court. The only reported injury was to a 19-year-old fan who was hospitalized briefly with a cut lip.

On Wednesday, Hermann took solace in the fact his team, playing with four eligible starters and several from his JV team, fought off a furious effort from Dixie Hollins (4-5), which came back from an 11-point deficit late in the third to tie it at 51 midway through the fourth.

"But we didn't back down and several guys stepped up when they needed to," Hermann said. "Jeremy Jackson (game-high 23 points) was really big for us."

Tarron Stewart and Blake Allen were pretty good as well, chipping in 16 points each, several of their buckets coming in the final two minutes.

Scott Purks can be reached at purks@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3353.