GOOSE CREEK — It looked like a typical Goose Creek High School football practice. The players broke the huddle with enthusiasm and a sense of spirit. The blocking and tackling were crisp, and there was a sense of urgency as the Gators prepared for Friday’s playoff game.
But something was different.
Goose Creek, the prohibitive favorite to win its second straight Division II-AAAA state championship, ended Tuesday’s practice knowing that it might have been the last of the season.
Earlier in the day, High School League Commissioner Jerome Singleton ruled that Goose Creek used an ineligible player this season, and he banned the Gators from the playoffs.
Today, the school learns its fate as it makes an appeal to the High School League’s Executive Committee. The hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. at the league office in Columbia.
Repeated attempts to reach Chuck Reedy, athletic director and football coach at Goose Creek, and school Principal Jimmy Huskey were unsuccessful.
“To protect the integrity of that appeals process, the school and district are unable to provide additional details regarding the alleged violation at this time,” said Amy Kovach, spokeswoman for the Berkeley County School District. “There’s not much we can say right now because we want to protect the privacy of our students.”
The High School League said Goose Creek officials self-reported the infraction. Neither the league nor the school would identify the student-athlete or say why he was ineligible.
While schools officials weren’t talking, the community was buzzing. At Diamond Cutz Barbershop, located just down the street from the high school and frequented by many Goose Creek football players, owner Christian Duboise was stunned by the news.
He was looking forward to Friday’s second-round home game against Bluffton. But for now, Conway, a team that Goose Creek beat last week, will face Bluffton.
“I was extremely shocked when I heard the news,” said Duboise, who was planning to attend the game. “They were destined to go back to the state championship and win another title. Maybe it will get overturned. Unfortunately, they were nationally ranked and worked their tails off to get there. A lot of aspirations and dreams are down the drain right now.”
This isn’t the first time a team from the Lowcountry has been banned from the football playoffs.
In 2005, Summerville High School’s varsity team was barred from the playoffs after the junior varsity squad knowingly used an ineligible player during a game.
The High School League granted the Summerville High program mercy, allowing the Green Wave to compete in the playoffs, even though a rule was broken.
The league’s Executive Committee first voted 14-1 to uphold Singleton’s decision to place Summerville on probation for knowingly using an ineligible player. Then committee member Tracy Carter of Dixie High School in Due West made a motion to allow the Green Wave to play in the playoffs.
It was seconded by Beth Phibbs of the State Department of Education, and it passed 11-4.
Bob Maibach, the assistant chief of the Goose Creek Rural Fire Department, said many of the volunteer firefighters went to Goose Creek High School and are in the stands when the Friday night lights shine.
“The folks around here have been really excited about the football team. It used to be Stratford, Stratford, Stratford,” he said. “I heard about (the ban) around lunchtime and saw a couple of posts on Facebook. I was stunned. All I hope is they are being dealt with fairly and will not be punished any differently than other schools in their situation.”
While Goose Creek players weren’t allowed to speak to reporters, some posted comments on Twitter.
Gerald Turner, a defensive end who has committed to South Carolina, tweeted “Man this can’t be true.”
Georgia commitment Tramel Terry, arguably the best player in the state, tweeted, “Everyone I have no clue what’s going on.”
It might mean Turner, Terry and fellow senior Jalen Stevens have played in their last game at Goose Creek.
“Not my senior year man,” Stevens tweeted. “I want the truth man. ... I haven’t felt like this since I lost my grandma. Pray.”
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.
Goose Creek’s Dylan Steele and his Gator teammates will have to wait until at least this evening to know if their football season will continue. Goose Creek was disqualified from the state playoffs over the use of an ineligible player.×
The High School League has confirmed that Goose Creek has been disqualified from the Division II-AAAA state football playoffs after the Gators used an ineligible player that they self-reported Tuesday November 13, 2012. (Grace Beahm/postandcourier.com)×