Originally created 11/15/02

League denies playoff appeals



COLUMBIA - This time, the meeting was open to the public and the media.

The result, however, remained the same.

The executive committee of the South Carolina High School League on Thursday unanimously denied the appeals of Marlboro County and Northwestern that would have allowed the two schools back into the Class AAAA playoffs after both were placed on probation earlier this season for their parts in an ugly brawl.

Life for North Augusta and South Aiken has returned to normal. The Yellow Jackets will host Conway tonight at 8, while the Thoroughbreds will travel to Berkeley at 8.

"It's a relief for all the coaches that this thing is finally over with," North Augusta Joe Long said. "If (the decision) would have gone the other way, the High School League would have lost all integrity."

Instead, the SCHSL - which denied the original appeal Nov. 4 but was forced to replay the hearing after a South Carolina Circuit judge ruled it had violated the Freedom of Information Act - ended the season for 9-2 Marlboro County and 9-2 Northwestern.

"As far as we're concerned, we had a fair hearing," said Ray Brayboy, the Marlboro County School superintendent. "We have no intention of stopping the playoffs from taking place. As far as we're concerned, the issue is put to rest."

That, however, might not be the case for Northwestern.

Northwestern principal William Gummerson said after the decision that he would discuss the matter with his school system's superintendent and said he had no control over whether the parents of the Trojans' players would bring the matter to court.

Considering the postseason starts tonight, there's probably not enough time for Northwestern to file a lawsuit to stop the playoffs.

"The league has lost some of its power, because they used their power to the max," Gummerson said. "That's not always the best thing to do. We're disappointed in the High School League's ruling. They've ignored the facts."

The heart of Northwestern's case involved the year-long suspension of one of its players.

A videotape taken from the Sept. 13 game - which Northwestern won - showed a Trojans player use his helmet as a weapon against a Marlboro County player.

In a digitally-enhanced tape unveiled in front of 11 news cameras and a packed conference room at the SCHSL office Wednesday, the story changed.

Instead of attacking, the Northwestern player appeared to use his helmet to fend off a swarm of Bulldogs that were assaulting a Northwestern ball boy.

It wasn't enough to sway the executive committee.

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.