Believe it or not: Diamondback rattlesnake interrupts Florida high school football game

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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St. Cloud High athletic director Bryan Smart was enjoying last week’s homecoming football game against Winter Springs. Then he got a call from an assistant principal from the visitor’s side.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but there’s a rattlesnake about to enter the field at our 5-yard-line.”

Sports events have been interrupted by a lot of strange things over the years. Protesters, stray dogs, crazed parachutists. So let us raise a toast to St. Cloud vs. Winter Springs.

It became the first sports event ever interrupted by a deadly man-eating snake.

Okay, it wasn’t really man-eating. That’s just what headline writers might use to get readers' attention, and we would never stoop to such silliness.

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And it might not have been the first snake intrusion into a sports event. Nobody really keeps such records, so if you’ve witnessed one and lived to tell about it, please contact Guinness World Records.

Until then, Floridians can proudly claim another football milestone. Our college teams may have gone to seed, but we can still out-snake every other state.

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After being alerted, Smart and St. Cloud principal Nate Fancher hustled over to see this one for themselves.

“It was every bit a rattlesnake,” Smart said.

An Eastern Diamondback. Three feet long. According to the Florida Museum website, that made it medium-sized for the Crotalus adamanteus species. Also according to the website:

“This is a snake that should simply be left alone and not bothered.”

Sure, but what if it slithers onto a football field during the third quarter and hasn't even bought a ticket? The Florida High School Athletic Association manual covers a lot of things, but there’s no protocol for a snake crashing the gate.

“It’s my first year as athletic director,” Smart said, “and they don’t prepare you for that.”

Play was halted as school officials tried to talk the snake into leaving. They offered it free tickets to the next cross-country meet. A white mouse from the biology lab. Nothing.

St. Cloud assistant coach Cory Aun came over to assess things.

“He’s quite the woodsman,” Smart said. “He’s not scared of anything.”

The men decided to empty a Gatorade cooler and corral the snake into it using a hashmark pole. Very MacGyver-like. Then they took it to the woods beyond the practice field and set it free.

The encounter made for a homecoming game nobody will forget. For the record, St. Cloud won 38-16. Though he was undoubtedly tempted, the Winter Springs coach did not say his team was snake-bit. 

Stud of the Week: Eliud Kipchoge, who set a world record at the Berlin Marathon. The 37-year-old Kenyan covered the 26.2 miles in 2:01.09. That worked out to an astounding 4:37 per mile.

Stud II: Albert Pujols, for hitting his 700th home run. The 42-year-old Cardinal has covered 47.7 miles in home run trots in his career. Not at 4:37-per-mile pace, but still impressive.

Stud III: The Miami Hurricanes. As a sympathy gift to UF fans upset over the close loss to Tennessee, the U went out and got plastered 45-31 by Middle Tennessee State. Nice gesture, Miami. ...

During warmups before Sunday’s game against Green Bay, Tom Brady wore a T-shirt featuring his high-school photo. Under the picture was a quote that read “Greatness Lasts Forever.” After losing 14-12, Brady added “Unless It Has a Bad Offensive Line and Lame Receivers." ...  Urban Meyer’s name keeps coming up for job openings at Arizona State, Auburn (pending), Nebraska, McDonald’s. Search committees need to check the Florida Museum website’s entry for the Urbanus Meyerteus species: “This is a snake that should simply be left alone and not bothered.”

Marathon Man II: Statcast reports that Pujols’ home-run trot takes an average of 26 seconds. He’s spent 5 hours and 3 minutes rounding the bases, which is only slightly longer than it takes to complete an MLB game these days. 

Can they move UF game to Eastern Washington's red Roos Field?

Ian Update: To be safe, Florida should move this week’s game to Eastern Washington and play it at red-turfed Roos Field. With a capacity of 8,600 fans, the Gators might learn to appreciate what Miami players see at every home game. 

Correction: I probably should refer to them as “person-eating” snakes and not "man-eating." … Nebraska interim coach Mickey Joseph will get a $650,000 bonus if the Huskers win a national championship. In related news, Hurricane Ian will get a $650,000 bonus if it makes landfall at Omaha. ... In related news, Nebraska receiver Decoldest Crawford got an NIL deal with an air conditioning company based on his name. I wonder if Tennessee would allow QB Hendon Hooker to entertain similar offers? ... If a person-eating snake showed up at a Miami home game, would it starve to death?

Trivia Question: What will happen first — Mickey Joseph collecting a $650,000 bonus for winning a national championship or Albert Pujols making the Kenyan Olympic marathon team? ...

If you think Auburn’s having a tough year, Bloomberg calculates that Mark Zuckerberg has lost $71 billion in 2022 due to the drop in Meta’s stock value. A spokesperson said Zuckerberg’s recovery plan is to join the LIV Tour and make up for the loss by winning three tournaments. 

Urban Trivia: On this date in 1590, Pope Urban VII died after only 13 days on the job. He reportedly wanted to spend more time with his family. ... If/when Auburn fires Bryan Harsin, the buyout total for its last three coaches will reach $71 billion.

NIL Update: Miami has signed a deal with the S.S. Titanic.

That’s about all the space we have for this week’s Whitley’s Believe It or Not. Until next time, please don’t give your favorite coach a Gatorade shower before making sure there aren’t any person-eating snakes in the cooler.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley.

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