HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. (WNCN) – For Holly Springs High School senior David Arteaga, the Golden Hawks aren’t just teammates but family.
“They’re like brothers to me,” Arteaga said. “They’ll have my back for anything.”
The Golden Hawks posted a 10-1 regular-season record in 2019.
“Waking up early in the morning, going to work out at the midnight practice, all the work we’ve put in, nobody has no idea what we’ve done,” Senior Kyle Morgan said.
Holly Springs earned a bye in the first week of the playoffs, but that changed this week.
Principal Robert Morrison issued the release saying the school discovered the ineligible player participated in the last two football games of the regular season.
“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,” Morrison said.
The principal said a $500 fine associated with the infraction was reduced to $250 because it was self-reported.
“We regret the oversight and sincerely apologize to the students that are impacted. We will take steps to see that oversight of this kind never occurs again,” Morrison said.
The principal said the team was informed Wednesday morning and he’s “proud that they are handling the news responsibly and with grace. I assured them that they have the support of the entire Hawks community.”
“It was just terrible,” Arteaga said about finding out about the decision. “Knowing that Hillside was our last game, it was my last game, for me as a senior.”
Thursday night, a closed meeting between school administrators and parents took place on campus.
“Players were asking just as many questions as parents were, trying to find an answer,” Senior football player Hunter Sauls said.
Tom Livolsi’s son is a sophomore tight end for the Golden Hawks. For him, there are still questions as to how this happened.
He said, in the meeting, the school’s principal appeared not to be leaning towards an appeal.
“He was presented with what appeared to be some pretty reasonable options for an appeal, and he continued to deflect and say he wasn’t basically going to do that,” Livolsi said.
CBS 17 has reached out to Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) officials about Thursday’s meeting and a possible appeal, and are waiting to hear back.
Meanwhile, Livolsi hopes to see players end the season on their terms, with at least one more game on the gridiron.
“I think we have a chance,” senior player Connor Sauls said. “We’re going to keep fighting until someone tells us we can’t anymore.”
Livolsi told CBS 17 parents are looking into legal counsel for an appeal on behalf of the players.
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