Our View: NHS Quarterback Sheets’ Suspension Just Isn’t Right
December 2, 2011
Tonight’s the biggest football game ever in Bratt, and certainly the big one for seniors like Brandon Sheets, starting quarterback and free safety.
But Brandon won’t play tonight, his suspension upheld Thursday by the Florida High School Athletic Association for taunting. Really? This is high school football. This is a sport for young men; this is not third grade kickball.
That said, there should have never been a flag on Sheets after his short touchdown late in the third. Video from two different angles clearly shows Sheets steeping across the goal line and stopping near immediately. There’s a Freeport defender wrapped around his legs. The tackle does not bring him down, but he stops until the Freeport player turns loose. Yes, he does look down, waiting to see when Mr. Freeport is going to let go. Then within a second, he turns and walks away with another Chief.
Plenty of “smart” armchair quarterbacks have read the reports on NorthEscambia and chimed in on how immature he was, how he should be taught a lesson, how the suspension was correct and lots of other uneducated comments. Some theorized that it was what he said that irked the referee. Most probably did not even see the game, blowing hot air behind their keyboards.
The videos clearly show he did not do anything wrong. But, most importantly to me, I did not see anything wrong. I’m not playing armchair quarterback or making that call from the perspective of a fan in the stands. I’m saying that as the person standing closer to the play than anyone else in the stadium except for other players. I was just feet away on the edge of end zone, closer than any referee. If he said anything wrong, I certainly did not hear it, and it would have been impossible for any referee to hear.
I never saw a second flag against Sheets. No one caught it on video. In fact, I can’t find anyone that saw the second flag, even among us media types on the field. There was never a clear signal from a ref that Sheets was ejected.
If Brandon Sheets did run back on the field clapping, then sorry Mr. Referee, he wasn’t making fun of you (again, this is not third grade kickball and no one’s out to get you). He was encouraging his team. That’s what Brandon Sheets does play after play, game after game. That’s leadership, not taunting.
After the game, Wheatley told me, and told other reporters in separate interviews, that Sheets was not ejected. Wheatley said he pulled him from the rest of the game, allowing backup quarterback Kevin Vaughan excellent playtime in the QB slot.
But somewhere between Friday night and Monday morning, an official from the Miracle Strip Association, decided and reported to the Florida High School Athletic Association that Sheets was ejected.
That’s another interesting issue. The Miracle Strip Association that provided the officials is based in Shalimar, about 30 miles from Freeport, with officials from across that area. They are, just to make the note, the likely officials for the Northview vs. Chipley game. Chipley is a short 75 miles from Freeport.
Ejections have their place in high school sports. Throwing punches, spitting, attacking an official physically, throwing a sissy fit — those are valid reasons for ejections. Ejections have been issued overturned on appeal this year in our area for players involved in fights and players that were arrested.
But what’s done is done, as wrong as it may be. Brandon Sheets will sit out Friday night’s game. He will hold his head high knowing his team, his fans and most of Escambia County are behind him.
Junior Kevin Vaughan will step and he will lead the Chiefs on the field tonight. Rest assured, his team is behind him, and they are ready to “Do it with Dewey”, as he is called by those that know him. The fans will pack the stands; those that can’t be there will follow our score updates on their computers and smartphones. We all have your back Kevin, and we are supporting you and each of the players fully.
Win or lose, we won’t be making excuses come Saturday morning, even though we know the suspension was wrong. The entire area will stand tall behind the Boys from Bratt. Most of us are already checking the couch cushions for gas money for Orlando. (Can you say Road Trip?!?)
William Reynolds, Publisher