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Football: Trouble is brewing for Santa Margarita [Updated]

December 26, 2011 |  2:13 pm

Next month, Santa Margarita is scheduled to be treated to victory celebrations for winning the Pac-5 Division championship in football and capturing the CIF state championship Division I bowl game. But there's trouble within the program and a growing perception from outsiders of priorities gone awry.

It centers around the revelation last week that two assistant coaches, Sean Coen and Robert Hendricks, pleaded guilty on Sept. 15 to misdemeanor marijuana possession. They had been arrested more than a year ago, on Dec. 14, 2010, and charged with felony cultivation of marijuana and possession for sale of marijuana, according to Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney's office.

Most troubling is the statement from Principal Ray Dunne and President Paul Carey sent to parents last week: "Had there been evidence of direct involvement by these assistant coaches in growing and/or sale of marijuana, they would not have remained in any capacity at SMCHS."

The Orange County Register reported that "investigators discovered a marijuana-growing operation in the garage of a San Juan Capistrano residence where Coen and Hendricks were living" and included three mature marijuana plants, 229 immature plants, watering and lighting systems, five one-gallon bags of dried marijuana and a pay-owe notebook.

Coen and Hendricks can have the misdemeanor possession charge removed from their record after 18 months if they follow through and complete a community service sentence and probation, Emami said.

Santa Margarita Coach Harry Welch said Monday he had been directed by his administration and the Diocese of Orange not to comment.

Others are commenting.

La Mesa Helix Coach Troy Starr said, "I would have terminated them immediately."

The school's message to parents ended with the following: "We remain confident that these two men have learned from this experience, and we hope it will help them in making wise choices in the future."

Yes, everyone hopes lessons were learned, but it hardly explains how these two coaches remained with the program through the entire 2011 season. And how come parents weren't informed until only last week, after information was revealed in a newspaper article?

-- Eric Sondheimer