Southern player suspended for state playoff game

Nov. 19, 2013 @ 10:56 PM

Southern Vance will be minus one player when it plays at Eastern Randolph Friday in the 2-A state football playoffs.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association and Southern Vance’s athletics director, David Jennings, confirmed the Raiders have one player ineligible. The ineligibility stems from the player’s ejection in Southern’s final regular season game against Franklinton.

Neither Jennings nor Southern head football coach Lewis Young would identify the player.

State athletic association rules prohibit an ejected player participating in its team’s next game. In addition, according to Page 52 of the NCHSAA handbook, “Failure to file an ejection report for a player or coach (form found online) is subject to a $50 fine. Reports must be filed within 48 hours or two working days, of the ejection.”

The handbook doesn’t specify responsibility for filing the report. Davis Whitfield, the NCHSAA commissioner, said the ejection report was not filed before Southern’s 12-6 first-round playoff win at South Columbus.

The games were one week apart.

In a prepared statement emailed to The Dispatch, NCHSAA commissioner Davis Whitfield said, “A thorough investigation included conversations with officials who worked the game as well as coaches and administrators. It has been determined that the ejection report, which is filed by the officials with the NCHSAA and then creates the official notification for the schools involved about an ejection, did not transmit prior to Saturday, Nov. 16. Therefore, the young man participated in the game against South Columbus.

“As a result, the athlete will serve his suspension in Friday night’s playoff game between Southern Vance and Eastern Randolph, and the result of last Friday’s South Columbus-Southern Vance game will stand.”

Jennings said the player was removed from the Franklinton game for “addressing a game official incorrectly.”

Jennings said there was confusion between himself and Southern’s coaching staff on whether the player had been ejected or disqualified. Ejections carry a penalty of also being ineligible for the next game; disqualifications are for the remainder of the game being played.

According to the NCHSAA website, coaches or athletes ejected or disqualified from any game are required to take a sportsmanship online workshop and fax a certificate of completion to the NCHSAA office. Athletes and coaches remain ineligible to return to games until they have served the penalty and completed the program.

Jennings said Southern did not receive an ejection or disqualification report from the state association prior to the game against South Columbus.

“He would not have played in the game had we received that report that he was ejected,” said Jennings.

Jennings said he received the ejection report Saturday, the day after the game, and immediately initiated further contact with the state’s athletic association.

If faced with the same situation again, Jennings said he would handle the matter the same way.

“It’s a situation where you’re waiting for a report and when you don’t get it, you go with what you get or don’t get,” said Jennings. “It’s just an unfortunate circumstance for everyone involved all the way around.”

South Columbus head coach Jake Fonvielle told the Whiteville News Reporter that the situation had been “totally mishandled.”

“We followed the rules in requesting the athletic association to check out the matter,” Fonvielle told the News Reporter. “It turns out that they said they were unaware of it, and when they found out what happened, they decided they weren’t going to do anything about it. When the people whose job it is to enforce the rules don’t enforce them, then you have a big mess.”

Fonvielle told the News Reporter that he had been made aware of the Southern player’s ineligibility early last week and initially told the newspaper that he asked Southern head coach Lewis Young if the player was eligible prior to the game. Fonvielle said Young told him the player was eligible. But Fonvielle later told the News Reporter that he apparently talked with an assistant coach, not Young.

On Tuesday, Young denied ever having a conversation with Fonvielle about the player and said the conversation may have been with a Southern assistant coach.

Young declined further comment.

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