A formal ruling was expected sometime this month.
Principal Michael Aronson sent a letter home to parents in the district last week that explained an allegation had come forth that the team had used an ineligible player in 11 of the team’s 14 games. The senior player had played a fifth season and high school athletes are only allowed four years of eligibility. It is unknown why a middle high school that is allowed to use seventh graders and eighth graders on varsity football would be subject to such a rule.
Mr. Aronson said a data entry error resulted in the fifth year of eligibility to the player who did participate in last month’s championship game in Orlando.
“This is a disappointing turn of events that will be felt throughout our entire community,” Aronson wrote, “This ruling should not detract from the accomplishments of our students on and off the field.”
Aronson urged the community to support the team and remember the hard work they put into this past season when the team went (14-0) and electrified the community with three hard fought playoff wins.
“Every day, and especially now, we must be Pahokee proud of our students. We ask that you support and encourage our students by celebrating their teamwork, character and commitment to their school and community.”
The community provided a big boost to the team in attendance at all the games this year and the championship game at Camping World Stadium. They also held a parade to honor the team last month.
The Palm Beach School Board did appeal the FHSAA ruling. Aronson’s letter said the district felt there were extenuating circumstances that would warrant the appeal. The school said they would update the community as soon as the appeal is heard and a final decision entered.
Mr. Aronson said he would make all efforts to ensure this type of mistake does not occur again. He said a full review of school procedures will be undertaken. Football Coach Orson Walkes also signed the letter.
At this point there is no State Champion in Class 1A for 2016. It was the school’s first state championship since 2008.