Westlake allowed to play in region final
Westlake will be allowed to remain in the Maryland 3A football playoffs despite a Charles County Public Schools decision that the Wolverines must forfeit four regular season games in which they used an ineligible player.
On Monday, Charles County officials ruled Westlake (9-2) must forfeit games against Huntingtown Sept. 25, Leonardtown Oct. 2, Thomas Stone Oct. 9 and North Point Oct. 16. Westlake went 2-2 over that stretch, with wins against Leonardtown, 42-7, and Thomas Stone, 47-12.
But because the No. 15 Wolverines would have qualified for the playoffs with a 6-4 regular season record that includes the forfeits, the defending state champions will play in the region final, said Ned Sparks, executive director of Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
The Wolverines beat Potomac (Md.), 30-12, on Friday in the 3A South semifinals.
“We rely on the integrity of the school system,” Sparks said. “I was impressed with the very thorough examination they did perform, from the highest levels of their school system. We have no reason to think it didn’t happen like their investigation uncovered.”
According to a news release from the Charles County Board of Education, the student in question was a legal resident of the county when the school year began, but his status changed when his mother moved in September and left him in the care of a relative that was not a legal guardian.
“Technically, it appears the school unknowingly allowed an ineligible player to participate in football games,” officials said in a news release.
The player participated in two other games at the beginning of the season when he was still considered a resident, that Westlake will not forfeit school system spokeswoman Katie O’Malley Simpson said. Westlake will appeal the regular season forfeitures in a meeting with state committee members on Tuesday.
In October, Westlake Coach Dominic Zaccarelli received an anonymous letter alleging the Wolverines were using an ineligible player. He subsequently turned over the letter to county officials. O’Malley-Simpson said the matter was investigated and resulted in the player being deemed ineligible because of his residency status, but the school was not punished, and the MPSSAA was not notified.
“They felt the school had done everything possible to verify the student’s residency when he moved here,” O’Malley-Simpson said. “The officials didn’t believe that anything had been done knowingly.”
Officials from Prince George’s County filed a formal complaint to the MPSSAA on Nov. 10 regarding the player’s eligibility, prompting another investigaton and Monday’s hearing.
Zaccarelli did not return phone calls seeking comment.
MPSSAA policy states if a player is deemed ineligible a team must forfeit all games in which the player participated. Westlake (7-4) will visit top-seeded Huntingtown (11-0) in the 3A South region final Friday at 7 p.m.
Had Westlake been knocked out of the playoffs, Potomac would have played Huntingtown in the 3A South region final. Early Tuesday afternoon, many believed that scenario with Westlake being knocked out of the playoffs would occur.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s better to get something by earning it instead of having it given to you," Potomac Coach Chris Davidson said. "If we would have earned this spot, it would have hurt more, but we did lose to Westlake. … I feel bad for the kids. They were kind of excited. I would have taken it, but we didn’t earn it.”
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