Holly Springs football parents hire attorney, file appeal as postseason begins

Wake County News

GARNER, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s that time of year for high school football playoffs.

“It’s well worth coming out here,” Garner High football fan Brenda Liles said. “That’s what football season. Cold weather and hot chocolate.”

Friday night’s cold temperatures couldn’t keep high school football postseason cheers down.

“The playoffs are getting to the big time,” Wakefield High fan David Castor said.

Friday, Garner High School and Wakefield High School squared off for a spot in the third round of the playoffs.

The winner was originally scheduled to play Holly Springs next week.

The Holly Springs Golden Hawks had a first-round bye, after posting a 10-1 regular season. This week, details emerged about a self-reported violation involving an ineligible player.

“We reported this violation to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. As specified in NCHSAA policy, we must forfeit those games, and our team is ineligible for the playoffs,” Holly Springs High Principal Robert Morrison said.

Fans at the Garner-Wakefield game had mixed feelings on the decision involving Holly Springs.

“That’s the rules, so you’re going to have to go by the rules,” Liles said. 
“I don’t think they should punish the whole team, in my opinion,” Garner High fan Robert Hinton said. “I think Garner could’ve beat Holly Springs, no problem. But, like I said, it’s just my opinion.”

But Holly Springs parents said their season may not be over.

“There’s a possibility that the boys could be playing football on Friday,” Holly Springs parent Tom Livolsi said.

Livolsi told CBS 17 Holly Springs parents got an attorney, who filed an appeal to the decision on behalf of the players.

“We do think the interpretation of the rule is ambiguous enough,” Livolsi said. “These boys had nothing to do with it. They were here every morning, in morning workouts. They did the midnight practice. They stayed after every practice helping each other.”

According to Wake County Public School System officials, an appeal has not been filed by the school or district.

Officials also told CBS 17 federal student privacy laws prohibit the district from sharing information regarding the circumstances around the student’s eligibility.

For now, Livolsi and others will wait and have hope.

“If things work out, and the boys are able to play next Friday, even if they lose, it was in their hands,” Livolsi said. “It was something that they could control. It was something that they’ve worked for.”

CBS 17 also received a statement from North Carolina High School Athletic Association Commissioner Que Tucker:

“The NCHSAA can confirm, as indicated in a letter to parents by Wake County Public School System, that Holly Springs has been removed from the playoffs after receiving a self-reported violation that the football team used an ineligible player during the regular season. By NCHSAA Handbook Policy, since the brackets have already been finalized, no team will replace Holly Springs in the bracket.

It is always unfortunate when a school makes an error that forces forfeitures, and because of the timing of this finding, it is doubly unfortunate. Had this mistake been found prior to the brackets being finalized, it would have been possible to adjust the team’s record and ranking so that they could be seeded appropriately, given the circumstances, allowing them to possibly participate in the playoffs.

We understand that this is a difficult ruling, particularly for the seniors of Holly Springs, our hearts go out to them. However, the NCHSAA is charged with maintaining fairness and equity by enforcing the rules and regulations of the Association. In this case, the violation and penalty are spelled out very clearly in our regulations.”

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