It was the man-down Chiles lacrosse coach Chris Anders couldn’t prepare for.
On Monday, Anders informed his team that the district championship the Timberwolves had just won last week by beating Maclay 11-7 would be vacated.
After snapping the Marauders’ 51-game district win streak this season before pulling out victory No. 2 to end Maclay’s six-year district championship streak, Chiles was told by the FHSAA it had used an academically ineligible player.
With its district title stripped, the Timberwolves won’t play Friday in a regional quarterfinal game at Gulf Breeze (20-0).
“I was devastated, more for the kids than anyone else,” Anders said. “It’s not about history, or a trophy, or a win, it’s about the amount of work, dedication they’ve put into this team to become a family and, for the seniors, this program. It was a big heart-breaker.”
Gulf Breeze, which had beaten all three District 1 opponents during the regular season except for Chiles, will now receive a first-round bye.
As explained to the Democrat by the FHSAA, the simplest explanation why the runner-up doesn’t advance to the playoffs in another’s forfeited absence revolves around several hypotheticals from other teams, such as Leon perhaps claiming it would have beaten Chiles in the district semifinals if the ineligible player had not played.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Chiles’ 13 seniors, who had worked hard all off-season to reverse the narrative that had been Maclay domination.
The Timberwolves were set to make their first playoff appearance since 2013.
“It’s just not being able to end it on our terms,” Anders said. “If we lose, we lose. But I don’t think any of them deserve to have it happen like this finish.”