Posted: 1:21 am Saturday, November 7th, 2009
By Jason Lieser
The District 8-6A clash between Boca Raton and Park Vista presented an opportunity to bury some of the friction between the two programs.
Instead, it appears to have made things much worse.
Boca Raton beat the Cobras 52-35 to claim the district championship and send Park Vista into a three-way tie-breaker, but the way the Bobcats finished the game is likely to intensify an already unfriendly rivalry.
Boca Raton had the ball and a 17-point lead with 17 seconds left. Most teams run out the clock at that point, but the Bobcats lined up in the shotgun and kept throwing and calling timeouts. When that happened, Park Vista started calling timeouts, too, and it was obvious there was an issue.
On the final three plays, all in the shotgun, Boca Raton coach Keith Byars had Eddie Sullivan throw two passes and put in senior offensive lineman Ricky Sturm at quarterback for one snap.
Park Vista coach Brian Dodds was visibly angry after the game.
“If they’re upset about anything in the past, they shouldn’t take it out on our kids,” Dodds said. “Our kids had nothing to do with what happened with Eddie. It was all me or the administration. It was nothing to do with our kids, so our kids don’t need to be humiliated like that.
“I think (Byars) is a better man than that and he doesn’t need to humiliate our kids. This is high school football, ok? I guarantee you if that would have happened in the pros, somebody’s heads would have been rolling, ok? So he knows better than that. That’s the bottom line.”
Byars, who played 13 years in the NFL, did not seem interested in Dodds’ opinion.
“I teach my guys to play 48 minutes,” he said. “I don’t know what other coaches teach, don’t really care. I play 48 minutes.
“The only thing we can do on offense is throw the ball or run it. That’s all we can do.”
Or kneel the ball. That is also an option.
Byars said if Park Vista had a problem with what his players were doing, the onus was on the Cobras to end it.
“Stop ‘em,” Byars suggested. “That’s all you’ve got to do: play better defense.
“Glades Central put 44 on me. You didn’t hear me crying and complaining about it.”
Obviously there is history between these schools. Sullivan started as a sophomore for Park Vista, then transferred to Boca Raton. The Florida High School Athletic Association later ruled that his switch was the result of illegal recruiting.
The Sullivan investigated began with a Palm Beach Post report last November and Park Vista subsequently filed a formal complaint with the FHSAA. The violation was a key factor in the dismissal of former coach Eddie Giersbrook and Boca Raton was forced to vacate its nine wins from last season. The school also was fined and placed on probation.
Byars said his play-calling in the final seconds had nothing to do with a grudge against Park Vista. He said he would have done the same thing against any other team.
He also pointed out that Park Vista continued to run Tre Mason, who finished with 294 yards and two touchdowns, but that argument is a little confusing given that Park Vista was losing and Mason is the team’s best source of offense.
Sullivan took at least one late hit on his final throw of the game and both teams had to be calmed down before the post-game handshakes. While players met at midfield, Dodds confronted Byars nearby.
“I told him, ‘Keith, you’re better than us. You did a great job. Why did you have to treat our kids like that at the end? That’s wrong,’” Dodds said. “He said we’ll talk later.”
Later might be in three weeks. These teams could have a rematch at Boca Raton in the second round of the playoffs if they both make it that far.