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Courts and Crime

Court decision clears up confusion over which Northeast Ohio high school football teams take the field in the playoffs
Ashtabula Edgewood in, Beachwood out, and Mayfield is in and Cleveland Heights out

Kevin Niedermier
Courtesy of Ohio High School Athletic Association
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Even before the first game of the Ohio high school football playoffs, there were winners and losers. A Cuyahoga County judge rescinded a temporary restraining order against the state’s high school athletic association today.  And that means the original matchups in the first games of the playoffs this weekend stand. WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports it also means the confusion over what’s a “forfeit” continues.

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Ashtabula Edgewood instead of Beachwood will travel to Trumbull County to play Brookfield in a Division IV playoff game tonight. And Mayfield, not Cleveland Heights, will play Lakewood St. Edwards in a Division I matchup tomorrow. That’s settled. What’s not is a dispute over how the Ohio High School Athletic Association calculates a forfeit when it comes to playoff berths. The berths are awarded based on a complicated point system that includes teams’ win-loss records and the win-loss records of the teams they play. Forfeits go into the loss column. Earlier this year, Cleveland’s John F. Kennedy High School had to forfeit because a player was academically ineligible when it beat John Adams. And that, in turn, changed the points that teams who played those teams accrued for the playoffs.  But – complicating the already complicated calculations -- the athletic association said the forfeit came under Cleveland’s more rigorous academic standards, so it wasn’t counting the forfeit. Cleveland Heights – which benefitted from the forfeit – went to court, and for three days, there’s been a big question over who’s definition would count. And a big uncertainty over who makes the playoffs. Ashtabula Edgewood came out on the winning end of the judge’s decision today. Edgewood Principal Carl Williamson says students and the community had been preparing for the big game since finding out on Sunday they’d made the playoffs. 

“We got word just as we started our pep assembly. Our superintendent had just got out of court and texted the news. When we announced it the entire school erupted with joy. This is very big for our kids, it’s our first playoff appearance ever. Words cannot explain how we feel today.”

Over at Beachwood High School – which came out on the losing end -- spokesman Doug Levine says students were excited, but realistic about the prospect of going to their first football playoff game in decades.

 “Our students worked hard to prepare under short notice, but they understood that the result could be not going to the playoffs, so they weren’t entirely surprised. The only time we’ve gone to the playoffs was in 1989.”

Levine says not going to the playoffs does not diminish the team’s seven-and-three record. After Cleveland Heights High School Athletic Director Kristin Hughes got word her team is out of the playoffs, she called for some adjustment to the state’s athletic rules.

 “I would think it’s pretty obvious these things need to be clearer so we can avoid this situation. This wasn’t a fun week for anybody, I don’t care which side of the issue you’re on. So I hope the OHSAA will address this. If it doesn’t, we’ll bring it up.”


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