Football Coach Jack Gawler of Paint Branch High School is adamant.

Gawler was relieved of his position for one day last week because he refused to reinstate two suspended players.

"Nothing has changed and in no way will I take them back," Gawler said yesterday.

"I put them off for disciplinary reasons in two unrelated incidents. But when you lose a few games, people get angry. I've gotten nasty letters and obscene phone calls from parents who don't like the way I do things."

Parents of the suspended players, David Johnson and Troy Pumphrey met with principal Mark Nejako and Athletic Director Bob Foster last week, asking reinstatement of their sons.

Gawler, in his third year at the Montgomery County School, attended the meeting but refused to reinstate the players.

"One meeting lasted past 3 o'clock and the kids were waiting to practice. The principal gave me two alternatives, either resign or I'll be relieved," Gawler said. "I said I wouldn't resign so he told me he had no choice but . . . I just got in my truck and went home."

The following day, the majority of the Paint Branch players rallied to the defense of their coach. After meeting with the principal, Gawler resumed his job. Paint Branch defeated Magruder Saturday to raise its season record to 2.4.

"Sometimes I really wanted to get rid of the coach, but everything's not his fault," said Vincent Hill a running back. "Plus, we didn't like the idea of getting a new coach in the middle of the season."

Hill had quit the team three weeks before he felt he wasn't playing enough. The senior is one of seven players who have either quit or been suspended this season.

"Players quit at every school for lot of reasons," said one player still on the team. "They're either frustrated at not starting or not playing enough, so that's not a big deal.

"We don't agree with everything the coach does but we'll stick behind him. Personally, I felt he had every reason to put off the two guys."

Gawler said the controversy started a month ago following the Wooten game. Paint Branch led 21.18, and had the ball at midfield with 35 seconds left. It was fourth down and six yards to go but rather than risk a blocked punt or bad snap, Gawler elected to run the ball.

"We thought we could run some more time off the clock. Wooten had already blocked a couple of punts and I didn't want to take a chance of another one," Gawler said in defense of his call.

Paint Branch failed to pick up a first down and seconds later, Wooten threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to win the game.

"That started it" Gawler said. "There were some angry people out here (at Paint Branch) that day."

Johnson, injured during a practice the next week, was suspended for criticizing the coach's strategy at the next game.

"Yes, I admit it, I said some things on the sidelines and in the stands to people," said the senior tackle. "I've never been afraid to speak up and I don't think he's been fair with me or some of the other players. The real reason he suspended me anyway is because I told some parents about some remarks he made about a cake they made for him on Coach's Day."

Johnson's father, Herbert, said the conflict goes deeper than that.

"Coach Gawler and I have not seen eye to eye since he took over here three years ago," Johnson said. "Basically, he's a good man, he just can't communicate with kids. He's taking out our differences on my son and he can't do that.

Pumphrey said he was suspended because he had words with the coach over his playing status. The junior running back accused Gawler of using a double standard.

"The rule is, if you don't practice Monday, you don't play Saturday," Pumphrey said. "Three players didn't show up one Monday but played nayway. I have no bad feelings toward the player who played in my place or the coach but everybody knows that's not fair."

"This is an example of how two or three people blow things out of proportion," Gawler said. "The kids want to play and all of this is not their fault.

They worked hard last Friday and then came back to beat Magruder their second straight victory). To have a good program, everyone - parents, coaches, players, administration - has to work together."

The status of the suspended players is still undecided. Nejako told Gawler and Foster to review the cases and make recommendations as soon as possible.