Franklin County has canceled the remaining two games in its football season
A 23-yard pass play from Seahawk junior quarterback Lamarius Martin to sophomore Weston Bockelman, in the first quarter of Friday night’s 36-6 loss at Wewahitchka, marked the final touchdown of the 2019-20 season, as school officials moved Wednesday to cancel the remainder of the Franklin County football season.
The surprise move to fire head coach Josh Palmer led to his quitting as health and physical education teacher, leaving another vacancy to fill among those handful of teachers who have left in the first two months of the school year.
In a news release, the district wrote that “student safety is a top priority of the Franklin County School District” but did not elaborate how that issue contributed to the decision to cancel the two remaining games, a home game against Liberty County Friday and Nov. 1 at Holmes County.
“The school administration met with the head football coach Wednesday and determined that in the interest of safety for our student athletes, our school will not participate in the remainder of the post season conference games,” read the release.
The Wewahitchka game, and these last two games, were part of the North Florida series of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. The SSAC offered a championship series to the top eight teams in the North Florida conference, and offered a North Florida series to be played out among tis bottom four finishers.
Athletic director Scott Collins said he is in contact with SSAC officials as to what contractual obligations the school is under. He said the Florida High School Athletic Association can sanction teams when they violate contractual terms they have agreed to with other opponents, and he was uncertain whether the school’s decision would run afoul of FHSAA regulations.
In their last regularly scheduled game the Seahawks fell 42-0 at home to the Branford Buccaneers on Oct. 11.
Palmer said in his meeting Wednesday with Principal Michael Sneed and Assistant Principal Jamie Duhart, Sneed told him the season would be cancelled due to not having enough players to field a team and having moved up too many JV players into the varsity ranks in the latter games of the season.
“We only moved up two JV guys,” said Palmer, noting that Wewahitchka had a roster of just 17 players, and Blountstown 20, all season long.
“I think safety is a cover-up for some more real reasons as why they’re cancelling the season,” he said. “They’re properly equipped. Kids are going to get hurt, it happens. But you play it. When you’re out there, no one’s afraid of getting hurt.
“Football is a violent game. I don’t know where this fear of injuries is coming from,” Palmer said.
Insiders say Palmer had not been conducting vigorous practices in recent days, and that some of the players had begun to drift away from the program. The coach said one player had been attending basketball practice, and that he told him he would enforce rules that bar a player from competing in another sport if they quit one they are playing.
“They (players) get psyched and they go play games,” said Palmer. “Nobody’s getting their teeth kicked in, regardless of losses.
“The kids were enjoying it,” he said. “I was getting texts the next day asking ‘When are films going to be up? I want to see my highlights.”
In the news release, Sneed said “I would like to thank all of our hardworking athletes, coaches and volunteers, and I look forward to the re-building of the program during the off-season and preparing for next year.”