A controversial play near the end of Lakeside's final football game of the year last Friday has resulted in an apology from Panthers coach Jody Grooms, who faces possible punishment from his school and the Georgia High School Association.
A video of the play has circulated in e-mails and on the Internet since early this week with clear evidence of foul play. Grooms sent letters of apology to Effingham County's Jack Webb, the opposing coach Friday, in addition to principal Yancy Ford and Lakeside principal Dr. Jeff Carney.
The illegal play came on Lakeside's final possession of the game, with Effingham County leading 7-0.
Three Lakeside receivers lined up on the right side of the field. At the snap, one of the receivers ran off the field and stood with his teammates on the sideline. At the same time, a Lakeside player standing on the sideline 40 yards downfield entered play. Lakeside quarterback Chad Chandler threw a deep pass to the illegal receiver, but was intercepted.
No penalty flags were thrown on the play, and Effingham County went on to win 7-0. Had they lost the game, the Rebels would have been eliminated from postseason contention.
"The film's pretty cut and dry," Grooms said. "I got caught up in the moment, and it was a poor decision. I used poor judgement, and it's no one's fault than mine."
Webb said he sent the game tape to Ford who alerted Carney of the situation. Carney did not return an e-mail on Wednesday seeking comment.
Dennis Payne, the GHSA's associate director and administrator for football, said no written report had been turned in to the GHSA, but he expected one from Carney today. Payne said he would review the report and make a recommendation on how to handle the situation, but GHSA executive director Ralph Swearngin would have the final word.
Grooms, in his first year as head football coach and athletic director at Lakeside, led the Panthers to a 3-7 record this year -- one win better than last season. He previously turned struggling programs into state playoff teams at two schools in North Carolina and was hired to do the same at Lakeside last spring.
"I'm real sorry for the embarrassment this has caused Lakeside, the coaches, the players and everyone," Grooms said.
"I know I made a mistake. This is the first time I've ever tried it, and it will be the last."
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 863-6165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.