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McKinley makes major changes to appeal sanctions

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BATON ROUGE - On the last day of two-a-day practices for the summer, McKinley High School seniors like Gavin Bonilla are getting ready for his last season of hitting both the field and the wrestling mat.

“I'm just going to try to ball out for football, and just try to get all pins and break some records,” said Bonilla. “Hopefully, the AD and the coaches know what they're doing with these sanctions and it'll all work out in the end,” he said.

Bonilla is a returning state champion in wresting, but he may not get a chance to defend his title this year.

Following an audit, LHSAA placed sanctions on McKinley High School's athletic department, including a 2-year post-season ban.

“I was devastated at first,” said Bonilla. “I was trying to see if there was a way out, see if I could go to Zachary or something. But I didn't really want to leave my team,” he continued.

Some of the football team is gone with only about 27 players having returned so far.

“All we can do is tell them ‘treat every game like its a playoff game',” said interim athletic director Robert Signater. “Treat your season like its your championship,” he said.

Administrators, including Signater who is also serving as one of the school’s new assistant principals, are hoping to turn that around.

“Everybody's new. Administration is new. Coaching staff is new, so everybody have a new start,” said Signater.

With new leadership, the Big Blue are hoping to keep the neighborhood student-athletes in their neighborhood school.

“I think that alone will sell itself on the quality athletes that leaves this area to play at other schools and we can attract those guys to continue to stay here in their own home zone,” said Devan Clark, who is the latest new hire as boys’ basketball coach.

Even with all the changes, the new administrators are working to get the students to be on board ahead of the new school year.

“They're taking the initiative, so it makes me feel a little bit better about playing,” said Bonilla.

School officials say they do plan on appealing the sanctions ruling in September.

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