Court to decide Class 6A playoff bracket
Tue. November 01, 2011 at 4:20 p.m. | By Nick Johnston Sports Writer
Gadsden City captains Blake Hall (62), Dre'vonta Kelly (38) and Laynce Sanders (52) watch the coin toss before the start of the game October 7, 2011 in Gadsden, Ala. (Photo by Sarah Dudik | Gadsden Times)
A court will decide how the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A football playoff bracket will look.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Helen Shores Lee granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday against the AHSAA’s ruling that Clay-Chalkville must forfeit wins this season for use of an ineligible player. That allowed Clay-Chalkville back in the playoffs as the Class 6A, Region 7 champion, and also meant Gadsden City would be left out of the postseason.
In response, the Gadsden City Board of Education filed for an injunction in Etowah County Circuit Court later Tuesday afternoon on behalf of the Gadsden City football team, saying it wants the initial ruling by the AHSAA to be upheld.
“Being a member of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, we believe that the Association has ruled and we’re going to request that the ruling, the judgment they made, be upheld,” said Ed Miller, superintendent of Gadsden City schools. “We will do the proper legal work to request the ruling of the Association be abided by and reinstated. Hopefully, I believe it will be ruled on in the morning.”
The AHSAA initially ruled Oct. 26 that Clay-Chalkville be stripped of nine victories for using an ineligible player, and the Association denied the school’s appeal Oct. 28. On Monday, attorneys for the Jefferson County Board of Education filed the injunction request, which was granted Tuesday afternoon.
The AHSAA can appeal Lee’s decision to the Alabama Supreme Court.
Until further action takes place, the order of finish in the region is Clay-Chalkville, Oxford, Austin and Hewitt-Trussville. Clay-Chalkville is set to play Spain Park, Oxford hosts Vestavia Hills, Austin travels to Hoover and Hewitt-Trussville hits the road to play Mountain Brook. That all could change in the coming days, meaning a lot of teams are left in limbo as to which team to prepare for in the first round of the playoffs.
Gadsden City coach Joe Billingsley is not taking any chances. He didn’t want to comment on the situation, but his team was on the practice field Tuesday afternoon.
“We’re practicing, that’s all I can tell you,” said Billingsley, whose team would play Mountain Brook on Friday if the ruling is reversed by then. “I don’t have a comment ... nothing. No comment. Matter of fact, I’m about to blow the whistle.”
This type of situation is new to most, including Gadsden City principal Keith Blackwell.
“I’ve never been involved in something like this,” Blackwell said. “I understand, as a principal, what (Clay-Chalkville) is doing. They’re doing what they can to get into the playoffs. I’ve got to look out for my kids; the football team, my band, my cheerleaders, my parents. It would be hard for me not to get involved with what we have to do and have all those kids look at you and parents thinking you could have got in, but you didn’t do everything you could have.”
The situation is similar to what happened to Oxford’s team in 2007. The Yellow Jackets were forced to forfeit seven games that year for using an ineligible player. It cost the team the region championship, which ultimately went to Gadsden City.
Clay-Chalkville’s issues stem from a player who was expelled for 12 months in 2010 from Huffman High School for possession of seven bags of marijuana, according to Exhibit B of the AHSAA’s motion to dismiss. The player then transferred to Restoration Academy for the second semester of the school year before enrolling at Clay-Chalkville in August and becoming a member of the football team. An AHSAA bylaw states “a transfer student must be in good standing with the student’s previous school.”
The Huffman High School principal reported the ineligible player to the AHSAA after the Vikings played Clay-Chalkville in Week 9, a game the Cougars won 55-6.
The player no longer is part of the Cougar football team.
“It’s an unfortunate situation for the players anytime this kind of thing happens,” Miller said. “We’re certainly sympathetic to players at other schools, but at the same time we feel like as a member of the Association, that we’ll request that the ruling they decided on to allow us to participate will be upheld.”