OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The ruling on the field stands: A high school football team from a tiny Oklahoma town is moving on to the state semifinals, having topped an Oklahoma City powerhouse after an improperly enforced penalty with 64 seconds left.
“There is neither statute nor case law allowing this court discretion to order the replay of a high school football game,” Judge Bernard Jones said Thursday in an order regarding the Nov. 28 game between Douglass and Locust Grove, which Locust Grove won 20-19.
Oklahoma City Public Schools, to which Douglass referred all questions, said it would not pursue further legal action.
“Unfortunately, the outcome of the hearing did not produce the results we hoped for. The judge’s decision presents an opportunity for the (Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association) to review and address the processes and procedures that affect every student athlete in Oklahoma,” OKCPS District Athletic Director Keith Sinor said Thursday.
The association scheduled the 3A semifinal between Locust Grove and Heritage Hall for 7 p.m. Friday; the other semifinal was played Dec. 5.
“Around the school right now, I think everybody is kind of excited,” Locust Grove athletic director Justin Brown said. “Everybody’s getting geared back up again. It’s been about two weeks since we’ve played. … It’s a done deal. They’re ready to go.”
OSSAA Executive Director Ed Sheakley said in a statement that he was grateful to both schools for agreeing to schedule the semifinal as soon as possible.
“Throughout this controversy, we have been focused on minimizing any delay to the completion of the 3A playoffs, and avoiding interference in other activities and semester finals for member schools and their students,” Sheakley said.
The case began when an improperly enforced penalty erased a touchdown that would have put Douglass ahead with 64 seconds left. The penalty should have been enforced on the extra point or the kickoff instead of wiping out the long touchdown pass and marking off the penalty yardage from the previous spot.
Locust Grove held on for the win. The OSSAA punished the officials involved, calling the error “inexcusable at this level.”
Douglass appealed the OSSAA to have either the final 64 seconds or the entire game replayed. The association’s staff declined both options in the appeal, and its board rejected the replay options in a special meeting, prompting Douglass to go to court.
Douglass’ attorneys argued this week that Jones should rule in its favor without worrying about the possible ripple effects. The OSSAA countered by saying that thought the situation is unfortunate, the appeals process already had taken place.
In the end, the judge said the OSSAA had the discretion to turn down Douglass’ appeal.
“While mindful of the frustrations of the young athletes who feel deprived by the inaction of (OSSAA), it borders on the unreasonable … to think this court more equipped or better qualified than (OSSAA) to decide the outcome of any portion of a high school football game,” Jones wrote.
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