FORT MYERS — The Cypress Lake High School football team is without a head coach and three-fourths of its roster after Friday night’s game against Cape Coral-Mariner turned ugly.
Head coach Dale More was permanently relieved of his coaching duties, and 26 Panthers have been suspended from the team indefinitely, pending a review by the Florida High School Athletic Association for “an unfortunate display of unsportsmanlike conduct,” according to Lee County Public Schools spokesperson Amity Chandler.
NBC-2.com reported that More’s firing and the suspension of the players were by Principal Tracy Perkins, according to a school district spokesperson, and the suspensions were for two games.
The Fort Myers News-Press reported that, with the Panthers trailing 17-16 late in the fourth quarter of Friday’s home game, Cypress Lake was hit with six unsportsmanlike penalties in two plays. Two Panthers were ejected immediately and sparked a verbal confrontation between officials and the home sideline. Up to that point, the Panthers had been flagged for a total of 187 yards in penalties.
“Our team got mad and one of our teammates called (an official) a cheater and he threw a flag and told his other ref he’s ending the game,” Cypress Lake sophomore running back Jacquez Thornton told NBC-2.com.
The game was called with 3:06 left, giving the Tritons (1-8) their first victory of the season. Cellphone video on NBC-2 shows members of the Cypress Lake team and staff converging at midfield.
“Most of the teammates understand that what we did was wrong,” said Thornton, who added that he and many other players went on the field to try to get teammates back to the bench.
According to NBC-2, a district spokesperson said the suspension will not be overturned based on the FHSAA’s ruling, even if it comes as early as Wednesday.
More, in his second year as head coach for the Panthers (1-7), did not respond to repeated interview requests from the Daily News, and a relative at his home declined to comment to NBC-2.
The practice fields at Cypress Lake were empty Tuesday, and campus was closed to members of the media, at the school’s request.
Assistant coach Patrick McCarthy, a 2000 graduate of Cypress Lake, was promoted to interim head coach, but the team’s next game against Lemon Bay on Friday could be in jeopardy with only seven players left on the active roster. The Panthers are scheduled to play Estero the following week to close the regular season.
FHSAA spokesperson Corey Sobers said in an email to the Daily News on Monday that an official incident report could be completed as soon as Wednesday and that any action is dependent on that report.