One of New Jersey's premier high school football programs is in turmoil as authorities conduct two separate investigations, one for alleged hazing among players and another for alleged steroids possession by an assistant coach.
Sayreville High School's football team has forfeited multiple games amid the hazing accusations, including Thursday night's big showdown with South Brunswick, the freshmen football game on Thursday afternoon and the upcoming junior varsity game scheduled for Monday afternoon.
"We take a zero tolerance approach to any form of harassment, intimidation or bullying," superintendent Dr. Richard Labbe said at a news conference Friday.
The Middlesex County Prosecutor said it's investigating a report that seniors on the team hazed freshmen in various forms, some of which could be considered sexual assault.
School officials declined to discuss details of the allegations, citing an ongoing investigation by police and prosecutors, saying only in a statement they were "significant" and "if true, would indicate that inappropriate conduct of a very serious nature had taken place within the high school football program."
Students say a hazing ritual on the team goes back years, though none had heard that it was as serious as the one being alleged by authorities.
Parent Debra Godwin said the news was "very devastating, very sad for the parents and the players."
Parents, mostly of football players, met with school officials Friday and expressed frustration that many players they felt were innocent were being unfairly punished.
In response, Labbe said "the safety and the welfare of our students, particularly the students on that football team come first, before a football game."
Parent Theresa Tamburri said the school community is like a "family" and she's still proud of being a a part of it.
Meanwhile, police are also investigating assistant football coach Charlie Garcia, 38, after they found more than two boxes of steroids and more than a dozen syringes during a traffic stop late last month.
Officials say they'll take a "day to day" approach on deciding whether to proceed with upcoming games.