Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Still awaiting official ruling from NCHSAA, Freedom starts appeal process to stay in playoffs

Freedom High School's football team, in danger of being disqualified for the playoffs, has begun an appeal process with the N.C. High School Athletic Association, even as it awaits an official ruling from the state's governing body.

Freedom had five players ejected from last week's blowout win over Chase. The Patriots improved to 9-1, but NCHSAA rules call for any team that has that many players ejected for fighting to lose its playoff privileges.

Freedom sent video of the game to the state Tuesday but the fight was not shown on it. NCHSAA deputy executive director Que Tucker said unless the school was able to provide additional footage, she would have to use the game officials' written ruling -- that five Freedom players were ejected for fighting.

That would mean Freedom is out of the postseason.

Wednesday afternoon, Patriots coach Mike Helms told the Observer that while the school is still awaiting an official decision from the NCHSAA, it was already starting the appeal process.

Freedom was 7-4 in 2005, but suffered through four losing seasons - going 13-30 - before winning 19 games the past two years. This season's team, ranked No. 15 in the Sweet 16, is a class 3A state championship contender. Freedom averages 36 points per game.

Helms said two players on his team were fighting and three came off the bench but did not fight.

In its handbook, the NCHSAA identifies fighting as, among other things, "an altercation between (two) or more parties that includes swinging, hitting, punching and/or kicking." It also lists "leaving the bench area to participate in a fight (contact or no contact)."

"Our video equipment stops after every play," Helms said, "and we don't have anything concrete to say our guys were going on the field for a change of possession. So no they haven't given us official word, but we are starting the appeals process in case they do."