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Judge Halts Oklahoma High School Football Semifinal Pending Protest

Dec 5, 2014

An Oklahoma judge says a high school football semifinal will not be played Friday so he can consider whether a team that lost in the quarterfinals is entitled to a replay.

Locust Grove's Class 3A semifinal against Heritage Hall was postponed until next week at the earliest. The Oklahoman's Scott Wright reports a hearing on the injunction will take place at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11.

The judge said the OKCPS attorneys had provided sufficient reason for him to grant the temporary restraining order, but stressed to them that meeting the burden of proof to necessitate an injunction would be “quite heavy.”

He added that he’s well aware that a court ruling to allow a game to be replayed could set a dangerous precedent and create a “slippery slope” for the future.

The little school from northeastern Oklahoma beat Oklahoma City's Douglass High last week after game officials misapplied a penalty with about a minute to go. The crew mistakenly erased a touchdown that had given Douglass a 25-20 lead.

The state board that oversees high school athletics rejected a Douglass protest Wednesday, so the school went to court Thursday.

“We’ve gotten over one hurdle. We still have a long way to go,” OKCPS general counsel Brandon Carey said. “We believe that our argument about it harming Douglass in a way that cannot be remedied was strong, and the judge agreed with it. We hope to get it resolved as quickly as possible and come out with a strong argument next Thursday.”

The OKCPS attorneys filed their injunction late Thursday morning, and OSSAA attorney Mark Grossman filed a response early in the afternoon. Because of the small window for making a ruling, the judge felt the restraining order was proper to give the court more time to gather all the pertinent information for ruling on the injunction.

Douglass wants to replay the entire game or the final minute. The judge said he wouldn't rule on Douglass' complaint until next week.

The impact on athletes at the schools involved, as well as other schools impacted by a delay in the 3A playoffs, was heavily discussed in the courtroom Thursday.

At the 3A level, the many — if not a majority of — football players also wrestle or play basketball, so those winter sports could be facing postponements to contests later this month if their players are not all available. That would also impact girls basketball teams in most cases, because schools prefer to play both boys and girls games on the same night.

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