North County

A former football player at San Dieguito High School pleaded no contest Wednesday to a felony assault charge, and charges against two other athletes accused in the same incident were dropped.

The former player, a 17-year-old senior who is ineligible to play because of poor grades, told Juvenile Court Referee Pro Tem M. Woods that he punched a fellow student at a party in Olivenhain on May 30.

He could be sentenced to four years in a California Youth Authority facility, but a far more lenient sentence is likely because he has no prior criminal record.

The plea is the first admission of guilt from any of the nine former or current San Dieguito High athletes charged in three North County assaults. One has been convicted of misdemeanor battery and has filed an appeal; the others have pleaded innocent and are awaiting trial.

Charges against a star linebacker and a varsity wrestler involving the May 30 party were dropped by the San Diego County district attorney's office because of insufficient evidence. The linebacker, however, faces charges in two other incidents.

The incidents have led to a debate within the community and the San Dieguito district's six schools about toughening the district's stand against off-campus violence and other misconduct.

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