HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) – The third time did not turn out to be the charm for Presbyterian Christian School and the playoff hopes of its varsity football team.
The Midsouth Association of Independent Schools’ executive committee turned down a third and final appeal by PCS to overturn an MAIS policy that would bar the varsity Bobcats from participating in the postseason.
Instead, the curtain will come down on PCS’ 2019 football season following Friday night’s regular-season finale at Jackson Preparatory School.
“We were denied,” PCS football coach Derek White said in a brief text late Friday afternoon.
PCS was appealing a policy that requires member schools with a junior varsity football program to complete that schedule to maintain varsity eligibility for a playoff slot.
PCS’ administration decided to forego the last three games of the JV schedule because of a slew of season-ending injuries to players suiting up for the junior varsity.
PCS Headmaster Allen Smithers said last week that 14 players, ranging from seventh grade to ninth grade, had suffered a variety of serious 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 last week. “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.”
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 last week .
Smithers said the overriding factor in the administration’s decision to not finish the junior-varsity schedule was the physical safety of the players.
“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 last week. “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. Smithers 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.
The final stop was the executive committee, which quashed PCS’ last hope.