High School Sports

Bitterness towards St. Thomas Aquinas continues with fan outburst

Sun Sentinel

An angry woman wearing a Venice High T-shirt interrupted St. Thomas Aquinas football coach Roger Harriott as he was being interviewed following his team's 46-8 blowout of the Indians Friday night in the Class 7A state semifinals.

The fan was eventually escorted off the field, but delivered a message critical of Harriott and the Raiders, who are vying for their 10th state title and trying to become the first Broward County team to win three state championships in a row.

“They're exploiting black men – black men from all across the country,” she said before someone stepped in and tried to end the outburst. “They're exploiting them. And when this is over they're not going to have [expletive] to do with them.”

For his part, Harriott remained cool and continued his interview with reporters after the fan was escorted away. Afterward, he said he wasn’t sure what the fan’s intention was.

Harriott’s wife, Marisa, who was nearby with her children when the angry Venice fan approached the coach, defended her husband and Aquinas’ program on Twitter Saturday morning.

“Ironic that a former @STA_Football parent stopped me last night to tell me how touched she was that @CoachHarriott continues to have a relationship with her son while he is in college,” she wrote in back-to-back messages to The Miami Herald on Twitter.

Aquinas (11-2) plays No. 2-ranked Tampa Plant (13-0) next Friday night at 8 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando in the Class 7A state final. The Raiders are looking to become only the second team in the state to win at least 10 state championships.

The Venice fan's angry outburst Friday comes only two weeks after the Raiders were involved in a brawl with players from Palm Beach Dwyer High School, whose players instigated the melee during the post-game handshake.

Fines and penalties were handed out by the FHSAA to each school and a handful of players were suspended. Aquinas, which now has those previously suspended players back, ended the season of the previously unbeaten Dwyer 37-0.

The angry outbursts by Raiders' opponents and their fans of late have all come on the heels of blowout losses by previously undefeated teams. Aquinas, the nation's No. 1 ranked team in the preseason, has outscored its foes 168-18 in the playoffs and has forced a running clock in each of its four playoff games.

Venice coach John Peacock didn't hold back his feelings about the roster the Raiders have assembled after Friday's loss. Aquinas, which has sent countless players to college and the NFL over the years, has dozens of players on its current roster with major college scholarship offers.

“We didn’t have a chance from the start,” Peacock told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “We prepared hard. The kids fought hard. It’s tough when you’re playing against a stacked deck. We had to have them make tons of mistakes and us be perfect.

“They’re just better than us. Bottom line.”

With a rich tradition for developing players into college and NFL stars, the Raiders have had players transfer in from across the state and sometimes from other parts of the country. Star receiver Trevon Grimes, an Ohio State commitment who is out for the season with a knee injury, moved from Indianapolis to South Florida to attend Aquinas when he was in middle school.

“When you can pick your cards playing poker, you’re probably going to win every hand,” Peacock said of Aquinas.

“They have 40 guys with BCS offers,” Peacock continued. “How in the world are we supposed to compete with that I’m not sure. I’m not sure what you do. How do you approach the next offseason? Do you approach the next offseason and say, ‘Hey, we have to face a team that has 40 Division 1 offers.’ How are we going to beat them? Maybe hire a magician.”