Posted: 10:50 pm Thursday, November 29th, 2012

American Heritage says playoffs opponent had its plays, blames former coach 

By Matt Porter

Six days after American Heritage’s perfect season ended in a playoff loss to Fort Lauderdale-University School, a controversy lingers regarding a possible unfair advantage.

Doug Socha (file photo)

A packet of information containing Heritage’s playbook, secret signals, favorite formations, code words and player weaknesses was faxed to the University football offices days before the showdown between the teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the MaxPreps small-schools national rankings.

It was a strategic plan to take down Heritage, the defending Class 3A champions from Delray Beach.

University coach Roger Harriott said he reviewed the information, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, but did not share it with his team before its 34-17 victory in a regional final last Friday.

Click here to open a PDF file showing a portion of the information packet sent to University School

On Thursday, American Heritage headmaster Bob Stone, head football coach Stacy Sizemore and assistant coach Brad Tremper said the information could only have come from former American Heritage coach Doug Socha. They reviewed a portion of the packet from University and said it is a replica of the game plans he produced in six years as coach.

“It’s very hard not to think that he didn’t have a hand in it,” Sizemore said. “Those are things that only people that have been in this program know. … Those are terms that I’ve never heard until I came here.”

“We got one of those every week,” Tremper added. “We’ve seen this before.”

Socha, now football coach at upstart Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach and color commentator on ESPN 760-AM’s high school football broadcasts, denies he sent any information to University. His name appears as the sender of the fax, but he said that means nothing.

“It wasn’t me,” Socha said. “It’s been speculated that I helped a bunch of schools [beat Heritage]. I have no reason to do that. … I had a great six years there. I’ve moved on.”

Oxbridge Athletics Director Craig Sponsky backed Socha’s denial.

Harriott said he spoke to Socha this week, but had no prior contact with him.

Under Socha last season, the Stallions beat University 31-20 in a regional final. This season’s final wasn’t as close — University outscored Heritage 22-0 in the second half.

“They were using our terminology, calling out our plays by name,” Tremper said. “Our kids we so frustrated. We had to calm them down.”

Citing personal reasons, Socha resigned from American Heritage on June 22. During his time as football coach, dean of students, teacher and athletics director, Socha lived on campus with his wife, Carrie, and four children in a single-family home. He was permitted to be on campus until October. After he resigned, the school barred from attending football games and refused to allow him on campus to work ESPN 760′s broadcast of a Nov. 8 game against Dwyer.

Socha said he remains in contact with American Heritage players, including underclassmen. Tremper accused Socha of recruiting them — and mining them for information about Heritage’s preparation for University.

Socha said he only offered encouragement to former players.

Tremper said he asked Socha to cease contact.

“He is no longer a part of this program,” Tremper said. “These are no longer his kids.”

The level of detail in the packet about individual Heritage players and recent strategies convinced Tremper that Socha was behind it.

“I think he used our kids,” Tremper said. “I believe 150 percent that he did it.”

UPDATE: Regarding possible punishment to University School, an FHSAA spokesman issued this statement to The Post: “The FHSAA has recently become aware of the situation and will begin gathering information to determine whether there are any violations of FHSAA rules.”