An unspecified number of Saguaro High School football players, including at least seven starters, will not be in uniform for the school's season finale Friday in connection with an Oct. 31 party in which alcohol was served, Saguaro coach Mike Reardon confirmed Wednesday.
Reardon initially suspended all players who attended the party, but later changed his position, suspending only the players who admitted to consuming alcohol or did not deny they consumed alcohol at the party.
Reardon would not identify the players nor say how many players have been suspended, saying only that 24 players will suit up for Friday's homecoming game. There are 59 players listed on Saguaro's preseason roster. Some are injured and some have long since left the team, so it is not known how many players were suspended as a result of the Halloween night incident.
"I know who was at the party," said Reardon, in his first season at Saguaro. "I have no idea who was drinking. I don't know anybody that was smoking (marijuana). I don't know anybody doing anything that was wrong. I don't know what went on. I know they were there. They admitted that there was alcohol there. That's all I know."
Players either refused comment or were unavailable.
Reardon's policy is that any player who attends a party where alcohol is being consumed by minors is subject to a one-game suspension, even if the player did not drink alcohol. After overhearing some students talking about the party Monday morning, Reardon addressed the Sabercats before Monday's practice and asked who attended the party. He informed them they would be suspended for Saguaro's game Friday against visiting Tempe. It is Saguaro's last game because at 4-5, the Sabercats will not be going to the 4A state playoffs.
Irate parents met with Reardon Monday night. After some discussion, Reardon eased his stance.
"We came to an agreement that the boys that were not drinking were welcome to come back," said Reardon. "I don't know and I wouldn't guess. I am not going to accuse anybody of anything because I do not know. The only thing I know for sure is I had football players at a party where alcohol was present.
"I opened it up to the players and I told them, those that were not drinking are welcome to return, end of story."
On Tuesday, 23 players practiced. That number rose by one Wednesday. Reardon said after practice Wednesday that no more players would be accepted back for Friday's game.
Reardon refuted rumors that the Scottsdale police were summoned to the party.
"There were no police there," said Reardon. "It was nothing like that. It was just a situation where guys made the wrong choice. You walk in the door and you see somebody smoking weed, you see somebody drinking, you better turn right around and walk out — common sense."
Both Saguaro principal Tyrus Timbrooks and athletic director Brent Carter said they support Reardon's actions.
"I back that coach's decision," said Carter. "We all know situations (when) a coach will make a decision not too many people are happy about."
Reardon said some players who did not return to the team may not have been drinking at the party but chose not to return to the team as a show of support for their suspended teammates.