HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - A Hattiesburg high school is contesting a policy of its governing body that could cost its varsity football team a spot in the postseason.
Presbyterian Christian School is expected to learn Wednesday if a third and final appeal will allow it to keep its injury-ravaged junior varsity team sidelined without having to forfeit the varsity team’s slot in the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools’ playoffs.
“We feel like we have a very strong case, but we have not found any favorable ears yet,” said PCS Headmaster Allen Smithers said Thursday morning.
PCS, a kindergarten through 12-grade institution, sponsors five football teams: fifth-grade; sixth-grade; seventh-grade; junior varsity; and varsity. The junior varsity is comprised of primarily eighth- and ninth-grade students.
PCS is a member of MAIS’s Class AAAA/Division I, which includes the organization’s six schools with the largest enrollments. Along with the PCS, the division includes Jackson Academy, Jackson Preparatory School, Madison-Ridgeland Academy, Amite (La.) Oak Forrest Academy and Parklane Academy.
Each of the six varsity teams are reserved spots in the football playoffs, Smithers said.
“All six go,” Smithers said.
PCS found itself in its current situation after an extraordinary year of injuries depleted the ranks of the Bobcats’ younger teams.
Smithers said 14 players, ranging from seventh grade to ninth grade, had suffered a variety of season-ending injuries, including concussions and broken bones. That left the junior varsity Bobcats with just nine healthy players.
“I’ve never been involved with a school that lost that many players,” Smithers said. “We were down to five ninth-graders and four eighth-graders, and we were fixing to have to play three teams that on their rosters have 35, 37 and 43 eighth- and ninth-graders.”
Smithers said the potential outcome of those contests did not come into consideration. The overriding factor was the physical safety of the players, he said.
“So, (there’s) an extraordinary number (of players) on those (opposing) rosters, and to play a whole game, we were fixing to have to put a number of seventh graders in,” Smithers said. “The administrative team and myself, we made the decision where we didn’t feel like that was safe at all to put seventh graders against ninth graders.
“So, we called the three schools and agreed to play the seventh-grade games (but not junior varsity).”
At that point, Smithers said the MAIS rule was discovered that said “if you have a junior-high team, but don’t compete for a championship in junior high, then you can’t compete for a championship in senior high.”
Smith said he was unaware of the rule before making the call, but said that would not have swayed the decision.
“I’ve been asked, ‘Why didn’t you know about the rule?’” Smithers said. “Well, the handbook has about 160 pages in it, and I just was not aware of this particular rule, which is very penal.
“But we still feel this was the right decision.”
Smithers said PCS appealed to the MAIS, first by letter to the director of the MAIS’ Academy Activities Commission, which was denied. He then traveled to Jackson to make a presentation before the entire commission.
Smithers said after a lengthy, closed-door discussion, that appeal also was turned down.
PCS has one last recourse, an appeal to the MAIS executive committee, scheduled for Wednesday.
“We still hold out hope,” Smithers said.