Note: Updated Saturday, 8:30 p.m. to clarify the rules and the number of players (to two) with equipment violations.
The stands at South Lakes were filled with a large Homecoming crowd Friday, but there was one mainstay who was not in the stadium: head football coach Marvin Wooten.
Wooten was serving the remainder of a two-game suspension because two players were found to have violated equipment rules.
One player had a hair tie (a rubber band usually used to pull his long hair back) around his wrist in last week's game at Madison. Another player had a sweat band around his leg.
Under Virginia High School League rules, the first equipment infraction earns an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty goes against the coach, which resulted in the coach's ejection, Wooten said.
"The rule book does not give you direct examples [of what can be considered an infraction]," said Wooten. "But if they say 'are your players properly equipped?' and you say 'yes,' then if they find things, this can happen."
The Seahawks were coached by Wooten's assistants, and the game ended with a 35-3 Saxons' victory. The Seahawks remain winless this season. The loss to Langley was the first time in eight games this season the Seahawks did not score a touchdown.
Wooten said the suspension came at a crucial time because the team had been improving in recent weeks. They had been outscored 170-33 in the first four games.
South Lakes then lost by two points to Louisa County on Sept. 30. The Seahawks were tied with 14 seconds left in the game against Madison last week, but Madison kicked a field goal for a 16-13 victory.
"I think the system let 60 kids down in a big way," said Wooten, who at 27 is the youngest head coach in Northern Virginia. "To just have me sit there was to punish the team and the community. Even the VHSL commissioner himself said this was a harsh rule."
Wooten was ejected during the Madison game Oct. 14, and league rules stated he must sit out the following week.
The coach said he fought the ruling all week, but was unable to get it retracted. He told the team on Friday he would not be at the game, as league rules dictate that the coach could not be anywhere near the team.
The coach said he tried to follow the game from outside the stadium.
"I tried to do everything not to put the team in jeopardy," said Wooten. "The game is done, but for the team, we were just starting to come together."
The coach said he is now looking towards the Seahawks' final two games of 2011 against Marshall and Thomas Jefferson.
VHSL officials could not immediately be reached.