Posted: 5:32 pm Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Armwood, which beat Dwyer in 2010 playoffs, vacates two years of football success 

By Matt Porter

Before Dwyer’s 2010 state semifinal game against Armwood High in Seffner, Dwyer Athletic Director Tom Pagley relayed a story about a previous playoff opponent who was rumored to have illegal players on its roster.

But Pagley wasn’t referring to Armwood.

“I just heard they were very good,” Pagley said of Armwood. “They were a pretty classy operation, from what I remember.”

Dwyer running back Matt Elam carries the ball against Armwood in a 2009 state semifinal game at Dwyer. On Tuesday, the FHSAA ruled Armwood must forfeit its 2011 state title and most of its 2010 season, which includes a win over Dwyer. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

Dwyer running back Matt Elam carries the ball against Armwood in a 2009 state semifinal game at Dwyer. On Tuesday, the FHSAA ruled Armwood must forfeit its 2011 state title and most of its 2010 season, which includes a win over Dwyer. (Damon Higgins/The Palm Beach Post)

On Tuesday, the FHSAA ruled otherwise, stripping the Seffner school of two years of football success — including a state championship — and handing out more than $12,700 in fines after a seven-month investigation that concluded several players used false documents to transfer to the school.

Armwood, which went 15-0 and won the Class 6A state title in 2011, will vacate all wins from last year. It also will forfeit 11 games (10 wins) from its 2010 season, including a 22-20 win over Dwyer in the Class 4A state semifinals.

Five Armwood players were found to have falsified residency claims. Some of the players used fake electric bills as proof of residency, according to the 16-page report.

Click here to read the FHSAA’s letter to Armwood.

The $12,700 in fines includes about $6,500 for a private investigator hired at a rate of $250 per day, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Hillsborough County spokesman Steve Hegarty told the Times that Armwood is expected to pay the investigative cost, but emphasised no taxpayer money will be used. The parents of the ineligible players will pay the remaining fines.

In 2010, the FHSAA fined Miramar-Parkway Academy more than $260,000, mostly for ineligible football players. That fine, the largest handed out by the FHSAA, was later reduced to $117,900. Miramar’s fine was high because of the egregious nature of the violations, according to the FHSAA.

The 2011 state title, district and regional trophies will be returned to the FHSAA, but Armwood will keep its team-issued championship rings. The Hawks also will be known as the team that was ranked as high as No. 2 nationally by several national outlets.

Aside from the Armwood wins that will be erased, the playoff brackets will remain as they were. Dwyer, which lost that 2010 game on a last-second, 44-yard field goal, won’t suddenly be credited with a victory.

Pagley said that didn’t matter.

“We could have been state champions two years in a row,” said Pagley, referring to Dwyer beating Armwood in a 2009 semifinal on its way to the state title. In 2010, “we [hurt] ourselves on the field, but then you look at how many kids they could have had playing who were ineligible. It’s a little salt in the wound, that’s all.

“What are you going to do about it? You have to hope this is a deterrent for the future,” he said.

Armwood becomes the second high school in Florida football history to vacate a championship. In 1971, Jacksonville-area Hastings High was stripped of its Class A state title for rules violations.