Oakland Mills forfeits season, 1A playoff berth in football

Ineligible player is cause

affected teams left in cold

High Schools

November 14, 2003|By Rick Belz and Lem Satterfield | Rick Belz and Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

On the eve of the state high school football tournament, the season came crashing to a sudden and unexpected end yesterday for Oakland Mills.

The Scorpions, seeded fourth in the Class 1A South region, will forfeit tomorrow's first-round playoff game to Dunbar, as well as all seven of their regular-season victories, for using an academically ineligible player.

Don Disney, coordinator of athletics for Howard County, announced yesterday that the school reported the infraction to his office after learning that the player participated in all 10 of the Scorpions' regular-season games.

The lateness of the announcement denied Southside of Baltimore City -- just behind the Scorpions in the playoff points standings -- from taking Oakland Mills' postseason spot. Also, it cost Howard County rival Wilde Lake, which had lost to Oakland Mills, a berth in the 3A East playoffs. If the situation were known earlier, Wilde Lake would have earned enough points from a forfeit win over Oakland Mills to qualify for the postseason. Pairings for the 64-team tournament were announced Sunday.

"This affects the entire state tournament," Disney said, "and I have already apologized to Ned Sparks," the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive secretary.

Said Sparks: "This is the first time we've been notified this late into the playoffs, and it's the first time we haven't been able to replace [the offending team] with another one. If there's a silver lining, it's that the people had the integrity to step forward and report it and be willing to accept the consequences."

Howard County requires a minimum 2.0 grade point average and no failing grades to participate in athletics. Fall eligibility is based on grades earned last spring, but students can make up courses during summer school.

This was the second time in five years and the third time overall that the Oakland Mills football team forfeited games because of an ineligible player.

"You just can't do this to a team with eight seniors that has worked so hard to get this far," said Oakland Mills senior quarterback Domonique Owens. "It's a slap in the face. It's a nightmare. It's a horror story."

Because of the suddenness of the announcement, grief counselors were dispatched to Oakland Mills for the players.

"After practicing all week, it's very much like a grieving process for some of them," Disney said.

Disney said he hoped that an investigation would reveal whether the infraction originated with the administration or the coaches, who learned of the penalty yesterday morning.

Oakland Mills principal Marshall Peterson and football coach Ken Hovet declined to comment.

Disney said the problem drew the ire of county Superintendent John O'Rourke, who read from a statement during a school board meeting yesterday.

"We share the disappointment of the Oakland Mills team members, students and community," O'Rourke said in his statement. "At the same time, we know that they are as committed to upholding the standards and policies that govern athletic participation."

Wilde Lake won a share of the Howard County title with Glenelg by virtue of Oakland Mills' forfeits. Wilde Lake coach Doug DuVall declined to comment on the situation.

State football tournament director John Cox said the decision to leave Southside out of the playoffs was based on the players' safety.

"We can't go tell another team, `Well, we've got a spot for you now, suit your kids up and get ready to play,' " Cox said. "It's a safety issue, and this is the fairest way we've determined to handle it."

Southside ended the regular season with four straight wins behind Jamal Johnson, who led area rushers with 1,731 yards and 22 touchdowns.

"We were playing our best football," said Southside coach Mike Clay, "and I would've liked to have seen Jamal get a shot at proving his talent against competition from outside of the city."

Dunbar benefited this season from another team's use of an ineligible player. Patterson forfeited a 22-0 win over the Poets.

Said Dunbar coach Ben Eaton yesterday, "It's a major, major letdown."

Sun staff writer Tricia Bishop contributed to this article.

Infractions

Here is a list of other Howard County football infractions:

1977: Wilde Lake forfeits nine games just before the state tournament for an overage player.

1981: Oakland Mills forfeits six games for using an academically ineligible player.

1981: Howard forfeits four games for using five academically ineligible players.

1981: Mount Hebron forfeits two games for using an academically ineligible player.

1981: Centennial forfeits four games for using an academically inedible player.

1999: Oakland Mills forfeits five games for using a player who lived out of the Howard County School district.

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