A Cook County judge on Wednesday ruled that Plainfield North — not Fenwick High School — should play in the Class 7A football championship on Saturday.
Plainfield North will play East St. Louis for Class 7A state title.
After the ruling, Fenwick Principal Peter Groom said Fenwick won’t pursue the issue, and that the focus should be on the 16 teams playing this weekend.
Judge Kathleen G. Kennedy agreed Fenwick had shown “irreparable harm” but did not prove that the Illinois High School Association had applied its rules inconsistently.
Fenwick had lost the semifinal last Saturday to Plainfield North after a mistake by the officials led to a tying field goal. Plainfield North then won in overtime.
Near the end of regulation in Saturday’s semifinal game, Fenwick was clinging to a 10-7 lead and had the ball at its own 15-yard line. With four seconds left, the Friars’ quarterback threw a deep pass on fourth down for an incompletion, seemingly ending the game.
But the officials ruled that play to be intentional grounding, a penalty. With no time left on the clock, the officiating crew then awarded Plainfield North one play, allowing them to kick a game-tying field goal.
In extra time, both teams scored, but Plainfield North ran in a two-point conversion, setting off a wild celebration for the Tigers and eliciting anger and confusion from the Fenwick faithful.
Several hours after the game, the IHSA issued a statement that stated the officials erred when they gave Plainfield North one final play after the passing penalty.
The IHSA cited bylaw 6.033, which states “the decisions of game officials are final.”
* There is some IHSA precedent…
Fenwick’s appeal cited a 2008 case in which the Mississippi High School Activities Association reinstated a team into the playoffs three days after a similar enforcement of an incorrect call on the final play of regulation allowed a team to score an apparent game-winning touchdown. Also in 2008, the IHSA established precedent by overturning results of the Illinois wrestling tournament three days after Edwardsville celebrated beating Granite City by half a point. A recount revealed Granite City actually won 2171/2-217 and the IHSA — after initially clinging to a rule that says results must be corrected within 30 minutes of the end of a tournament — rightly reversed the outcome.
In that case, the Edwardsville coach detected the scoring error himself and contacted the Granite City coach in a display of the type of sportsmanship we all want to define youth sports.
* Official IHSA statement…
Today’s decision by the Honorable Kathleen G. Kennedy in the Circuit Court of Chicago to uphold the result of the IHSA Class 7A Semifinal Football game is not a victory. There is no celebration and there are no winners in this circumstance. It is simply a resolution.
The Fenwick High School community has been dealt a pair of devastating blows over the past few days, while Plainfield North had a historic moment shrouded in controversy simply for following the rules provided for them, first by the game officials, and then by the IHSA.
We will move forward now, in the short-term with eight state championship football games at the University of Illinois this weekend. In the long-run, it is our job as an Association, Board of Directors and membership to look at our policies and rules to see if and how we might be able to prevent instances like this in the future.
We appreciate Judge Kennedy’s ruling from the perspective that we believe it is vital for membership organizations like the IHSA to be able to self-govern within the rules set by our member schools. Judge Kennedy recognized the historic precedent that would have resulted if she had overturned the outcome of the game based on an officiating error. This is the same pitfall our membership foresaw in originally approving the by-law, and that our Board of Directors recognized in their decision not to consider an appeal.