Fight over Oklahoma prep game spills into court
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) There's still hope for Douglass High School.
An Oklahoma judge says a high school football semifinal will not be played Friday so he can consider whether Douglass, which lost to Locust Grove in controversial fashion in the quarterfinals, is entitled to a replay. Locust Grove's Class 3A semifinal against Heritage Hall was postponed until next week at the earliest.
The state board that oversees high school athletics rejected a Douglass protest Wednesday, so the school district went to court on Douglass' behalf Thursday. Judge Bernard M. Jones said he wouldn't rule on Douglass' complaint until next Thursday.
''We've jumped one hurdle,'' Brandon Carey, general counsel for Oklahoma City Public Schools, said. ''We've got an even bigger hurdle coming up.''
The other 3A semifinal between Cushing and Kingfisher will be played this Friday as scheduled.
Locust Grove, a small school in northeastern Oklahoma, beat Oklahoma City's Douglass High last week after game officials misapplied a penalty with about a minute to go. The crew mistakenly erased a touchdown that had given Douglass a 25-20 lead.
Douglass wants to replay the entire game or the final 64 seconds, from the point of the touchdown.
Earlier in the day, Locust Grove football coach Matt Hennesy was confident the ruling would go his way.
''Football is football,'' he said. ''You fight all kinds of conditions. You fight the weather, you fight injuries, you fight turnovers, you fight the officials and, at the end of the game, when the clock goes off, whatever the score is, is the score. And we did everything we were supposed to do, we followed the rules and now we're moving on the next round.''
Jones said during Thursday's proceedings that he was skeptical of being involved and he doesn't ''know if this is the role for courts to play.'' He said making such a decision to replay all or part of the game would be ''extraordinary.''
''I know of no other court that has been asked to do what has been asked here,'' Jones said.
Jones said the burden of proof was with Oklahoma City Public Schools to prove there had been ''irreparable harm'' to Douglass' players.
Mark Grossman, attorney for the Oklahoma School Activities Association, said he is concerned about the ripple effects of replaying the game in any form - on time, money, convenience and the start of other seasons. He said he felt for the kids at Locust Grove, who have been practicing all week to play Heritage Hall.
''I'm the father of three kids,'' he said. ''They have a lot invested in certain activities, and they're very disappointed when they have to be delayed for whatever reason, whether it's weather, whether it's a situation like this. I would not want to be in that situation.''
Oklahoma City school district athletic director Keith Sinor said in a statement that he understands others will be affected.
''Everyone can relate to the heartache that occurs when you try your best and it's rewarded with unfairness,'' he said. ''Today's decision gives us another chance to make it right for students athletes and hopefully spark a broader conversation that will help to prevent similar situations from affecting student athletes in Oklahoma in the future.''
Freelancer John Tranchina in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, contributed to this report.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .