HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - As it turns out, the Presbyterian Christian School Bobcats will play one more football game in 2019.
PCS (6-6) will travel to Bonifay, Fla., on Thursday to take on the Holmes County Red Devils (5-5) in the First Federal Bank Bowl. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“They’re excited,” PCS coach Derek White said of his players. “For the past three weeks, it’s been pretty somber. You had a football team that didn’t feel like it had a lot to play for, that people didn’t care about them and that it wasn’t important.
“It’s great for our seniors and our football team. They’ve got an opportunity to go play and win the last football game they will play in their high school career and finish with a winning season.”
The Midsouth Association of Independent Schools’ executive committee turned down a third and final appeal Wednesday by PCS to overturn a policy that barred the varsity Bobcats from participating in the postseason.
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, PCS Headmaster Allen Smithers said last week
The MAIS policy 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 its JV schedule because of a slew of season-ending injuries to players suiting up for the junior varsity.
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, leaving 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.
“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. 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.”
Smithers said the three schools were called and to not play the junior varsity games.
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.”
PCS appealed at various levels of the MAIS to waive the rule. The school’s third and final appeal to the MAIS executive board was rejected Wednesday.
By then, PCS had been searching for an alternative way to end the season.
“We pretty much knew what the verdict was going to be from MAIS, which we thought was an unfair ruling, so it was ‘OK, what can we do for our kids?’” White said. “The (PCS) administration and myself, we started hunting, thinking if we got approval, we could maybe go to a bowl game after the ruling.
“Florida does bowl games for private schools (who don’t make the playoffs), and we had a list of about 20 that we whittled down from there.”
White said PCS reached an agreement to play Holmes County after the Red Devils were left off the list of playoff teams in Florida.
The game will be played in Bonifay, Fla., which is about 40 miles north of U.S. 10 on a north-south line with Panama City, Fla.
“Our headmaster did an extremely good job that we were able to give our kids the opportunity to do something else,” White said. “You know, to go from a 2-9 football team (in 2018) to (a chance) to (be) a 7-6 football team, these guys did a good job flipping