Because of a Mississippi Association of Independent School rule, the Presbyterian Christian School football team has been disqualified from this year’s playoffs after suffering several injuries to players that forced the school to forfeit three junior varsity games.
In a letter sent to PCS parents and family, PCS Headmaster Allen O. Smithers said season-ending injuries to various players left the school with only five healthy ninth-graders and four healthy eighth-graders, which would have forced the school to move up its seventh-graders to the junior varsity team to complete the season. In order to protect the physical safety of the players, school officials decided to forfeit the final three junior varsity games while still playing the seventh and eighth-grade schools, but then learned of an MAIS rule that states if a junior varsity team didn’t compete for the championship, the varsity team from the same school would be disqualified from competing in the playoffs.
“I wrote a hardship letter to the MAIS Affairs Committee of the Academy Activities Commission, pleading with them to grant us an exemption so we would not be penalized for protecting the physical safety of our younger players,” Smithers said in the letter. “Following my letter, I personally drove to Jackson to passionately present my case to the entire AAC.”
Despite the discussion in Jackson, the commission denied Smithers’ appeal, making the varsity team ineligible for playoffs.
“To say I am disappointed and frustrated is an understatement,” Smithers said. “Along with our Athletic Director and our football coaching staff, I am simply unwilling to unwisely throw the growing bodies of our 7th grade players on a field against much larger and more mature 9th graders, that may result in physical lifelong injuries.
“While our senior football players may carry an extra heaviness with this unfair ruling, I know that through their continued leadership, even they will have peace in putting the well-being of their football brothers before their rightful eligibility to play in the playoffs. Quite simply, it is just too much of a risk.”
Smithers said he plans to go through one more step of appeal through the MAIS Executive Committee.
“I have known the men on this committee for many years and am praying that they, too, will see reason in protecting our students,” he said. “Leaders who are passionate about independent school education, like them, know that the years of K-12 are only a passing station.
“It’s our bigger calling to grow and equip healthy young men and young women for success in life. I know, deep down, that even they know putting students in a position of great harm against much larger and older players for a game of football isn’t worth it if it jeopardizes them for the rest of their life.”
PCS head coach Derek White said he is upset for the team’s seniors.
“We showed a lot of fight Friday night and showed if we get into a playoff spot we are going to be tough to stop,” he said. “Our varsity football team had nothing to do with this rule but has to pay for it. Our kids showed fight Friday night but you could tell that the leagues decision was weighing hard on them.”
With all the distractions the Bobcats will still have suit up and play the remainder of the year. They will travel to the number three-ranked private school Madison Ridgeland Friday night.
The Patriots currently sit atop the division at 3-0 and hold a 8-2 overall record. Madison Ridgeland is a high-powered offense. They average 245 passing yards per game with 18 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Phillip short has 2,121 yards through ten games and has added 18 touchdown passes.
“This will be the toughest job I have had to do in my short career,” White said. “Our kids have been resilient all year. We are going to have our hands full come Friday. Every time we go to Jackson we always feel like we are the outsiders coming in which makes this game a little bit of a rivalry to us. They have set the standard in that area and we look forward to getting better and stepping up to the challenge.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Madision Ridgeland Academy.