MAIS ruling shuffles Class AAA playoff picture

Published 7:55 am Friday, October 19, 2018

NATCHEZ — A bombshell ruling by the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools has thrown the Class AAA football playoff race into turmoil.

Adams County Christian School, which had been undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, this week was stripped of seven of its eight wins by the MAIS for using an ineligible player.

ACCS coach and headmaster David King said the team learned of the ruling in time to sideline the player before last Friday’s 39-6 win at Cathedral. That win will remain on ACCS’ record, but its others — including a 40-0 victory over St. Aloysius in August — will not. All seven games were counted as 18-0 forfeit victories for ACCS’ opponents.

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ACCS had been No. 1 in the Class AAA power points rankings that are used to determine wild card berths and seeding. They are now No. 19. The five district champions and 11 wild cards qualify for the 16-team postseason.

The Rebels still have a chance to clinch a playoff berth by beating Central Private in the regular-season finale on Friday night. They could even clinch a top-five seed with a win and a Silliman loss to Cathedral, which would give them the District 5-AAA championship.

“We have a one-game season now. It’s win or it’s over,” King told The Natchez Democrat.

A number of other teams in Class AAA, including St. Aloysius, saw their playoff hopes brighten because of the ruling.

St. Al (5-4, 3-1 District 3-AAA) moved up two spots in the power point rankings to No. 10 and received eight extra power points to add to its average when its loss to ACCS was flipped to a victory. The ruling eliminated any doubt that St. Al could miss the playoffs — the possibility existed if it lost Friday’s game against Riverfield and some other results did not go its way — but otherwise only changed up its potential first-round opponent.

St. Al coach Michael Fields said the biggest benefit to his team is that it can now finish with a winning record for the first time since 2014 by beating Riverfield.

“That’s very important to us,” Fields said. “That’s an important part of building a program, is having a winning record. Winning breeds winning, and whoever didn’t want to play next year might see that and decide to come out and join us.”

ACCS is now one of five teams with a power point average between 13.286 and 13.875 that are jockeying for the last two wild card spots. Also in that group is Park Place Christian Academy (3-6), which is No. 17 overall and hosts Porter’s Chapel Academy (1-8) in the season finale Friday night.

If ACCS can win and sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, it could make for an intriguing first-round game next week. As a No. 15 or 16 seed, the Rebels would go on the road to play one of the top two seeds — either Central Hinds (8-0), Indianola Academy (8-1) or Heritage Academy (7-2).

Starkville Academy (8-1) is ranked ahead of Heritage in power point average, but the top five seeds in the bracket are reserved for district champions. Heritage beat Starkville 21-7 last week to clinch the District 2-AAA title and a top-five seed.

“The No. 1 seed should be a bonus, but that game is going to be a punishment,” Fields said with a laugh.

King did not identify the ineligible player, but did clarify the circumstances of the MAIS’ decision.
King said the player was deemed ineligible due to MAIS rules that state any player moving between member schools must sit out a year unless they meet certain criteria.

Those criteria include moving to a new home closer to the new school; removing all furniture from their former home of residence; and the former residence must be closed, rented or disposed of and not used by the family.

King said “a couple of pieces” of furniture were left behind at the player’s former address.

“There was a technicality, an unintentional one on the school’s behalf and the young man’s behalf,” King said. “The school that he came from turned us in and they investigated it, and it was a technicality but nonetheless one that we won’t run from.”

King said the infraction was only an athletic one and that the player would continue his school year at ACCS. King took full responsibility for the situation.

“It’s my responsibility as the head of the school to ensure that our kids are all eligible,” King said. “In 24 years of coaching, besides burying three of my football players, this is the toughest thing I’ve had to deal with, and I’m devastated for our school. And it’s no one’s fault but mine, but it was definitely an unintentional factor that cost a great group of boys a great season.”

Natchez Democrat sports writer Gene Coleman contributed to this report.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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