Soccer scuffle leads to suspensions

DHS soccer players cope after losing the section championship game 2-1 to Oak Ridge. An incident during the game resulted in the later suspension of a number of DHS players.
DHS soccer players sophomore Matteo Sorrentino and junior Ricky Gonzales cope after losing the section championship game 2-1 to Oak Ridge. An incident during the game resulted in the later suspension of a number of DHS players. (Photo: T. Oide)

By Kellen Browning, Editor—

Trailing 2-1 in the Sac-Joaquin Section championship soccer game against Oak Ridge, Davis High players thought they had a chance when the ball hit the arm of an Oak Ridge player inside his own penalty box during stoppage time.

“I was actually so sure [the referee would] call the penalty I had started to walk over to take it when out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my teammates running to the referee in dismay,” junior Francis Avoce said.

Avoce and six of his teammates were later suspended from school for several days due to the incident, which saw the DHS team crowd the referee, arguing with him for a penalty shot.

“I rushed to him as several of my teammates already had, and confronted him, asking him if he had seen [the play] or not, not using profanity or derogatory language, but nevertheless doing so in a demanding fashion,” Avoce said.

“Next thing I know, the referee is backing up amidst a crowd of our players and begins to hand out yellow cards, which is when I begin to move away from the scene realizing nothing good will come of it.”

Avoce was called to the office Wednesday, Nov. 19 and told that his use of profanity, his apparent aggression and his disruption of a school event led to his suspension, although he disputes these claims.

“Being suspended from school is not a proportional punishment for the wrong I’ve committed,” Avoce said, noting that he was not directly involved with the bump caught on video that showed goalkeeper Pablo Guarnizo in apparent physical contact with the referee, and that he was the first to congratulate the other team after the game, which “shows I stayed true to codes of sportsmanship which Davis adheres to.”

Athletic Director Jeff Lorenson declined to comment on whether he believes the soccer players’ suspensions are appropriate, but said that “the actions after [the questionable call] were just not of the code of conduct and standard of DHS athletics.”

DHS students pose in their "Free Francis" shirts, a protest of the suspension of soccer players.
DHS students pose in their “Free Francis” shirts; a protest of the soccer players’ suspension. (Courtesy: D. Johnson)

“I’m interested in ensuring that we put positive student athletes out on the field that can control their emotions,” Lorenson said. “It’s important that we educate all of our athletes, and that’s what we take away from situations like this.”

Lorenson cleared up the rumor that the soccer team would be banned from league play next year.

“The team is not being banned or barred from participation. It’s rumored and reported that there’s possibility of a probation period for the team; that does not mean denial of participation,” Lorenson said.

Lorenson reminds students that even off campus, they have obligation to represent the school and must still follow school rules.

“It’s important to know as an athlete that athletic contests are school-sponsored events. Therefore, student handbooks, athletic handbooks and education code govern your behavior, just like they would at lunch, just like they would during 6th period. The rules don’t change because it’s an athletic event, and sometimes I think we forget that.” Lorenson said.

Avoce’s suspension has led to the creation of a movement at DHS called “Free Francis,” which was started by Avoce’s close friend junior Daniel Johnson. The protesters wear t-shirts around campus decrying the suspension.

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