Fenwick HS loses bid to overturn football state playoff loss in court

Fenwick's QB Jacob Keller is chased by Loyola's Anthony Romano during their football game Saturday Sept. 19 2015 in River Forest. | Tim Boyle  For the Sun-Times

A judge has rejected a suburban Chicago high school's argument that it deserves to play for the IL state championship because a referee's mistake cost it a playoff win.

Fenwick High School in Oak Park filed a motion in Cook County court asking for an emergency order to overturn the results of Saturday's Class 7A semifinal against Plainfield North High School.

Judge Kathleen Kennedy heard about 45 minutes of arguments from lawyers representing the IHSA and Fenwick High School before making her decision, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The matter landed in Cook County Circuit Court on Monday, as Fenwick filed an emergency petition, alleging the IHSA had trampled the school's contractual and due process rights by refusing to grant the school an appeal of the results of Fenwick's November 19 Class 7A state semifinal playoff loss to Plainfield North high school.

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Officials mistakenly awarded Plainfield North an untimed down after calling a penalty on Fenwick for intentional grounding.

Following Judge Kennedy's decision, Fenwick representatives said they were "disheartened" by the judge's decision, but said they would not pursue any further legal action over the case. IHSA attorney David Bressler called Fenwick's attempt to get the game result overturned in court "absurd".

Fenwick wanted the court to intervene and declare them the victor, and allow them to play undefeated East Saint Louis in the Class 7A championship.

The IHSA said they "appreciate" the judge's decision to stay out of the matter, and let the IHSA "self-govern within the rules set by our member schools".

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During two days eight games are played to decided eight IHSA football champions. Per Rule 3-3-4 in the 2016 NFHS Football Rules Book, the game should have concluded on the final play of regulation and the untimed down should not have been awarded. "Sometimes the law is not fair". In overtime Fenwick scored a touchdown first, kicking the extra point to go up 17-10, but Plainfield North scored on its ensuing possession and successfully completed the two-point conversion.

IHSA later issued a statement that stated, "there are no winners in this circumstance".

Update, 12:01 p.m. EST: The judge has ruled in favor of Plainfield North. "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". Judge Kennedy recognized the historic precedent that would have resulted if she had overturned the outcome of the game based on an officiating error.

Fenwick quarterback Jacob Keller later tweeted, "your sincerest apologies mean nothing, my boys WORKED for 5 months just to have everything we worked for taken away". On Monday morning, the IHSA board of directors determined that the association's bylaws did not allow a review of Fenwick's appeal.

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