Plainfield North punched its ticket to Champaign and Saturday’s championship game under a cloud of controversy over the weekend. Now, Fenwick is seeking some relief in the courts to allow it to face East St. Louis for the Class 7A state title game.
Fenwick on Monday afternoon filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court seeking an injunction. The injunction seeks “that the Illinois High School Association be temporarily, preliminarily and permanently enjoined and estopped from denying Fenwick and its students from participating in its first-ever State Football Championship.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Fenwick released the following statement on Monday evening after it filed its court case.
“Pursuant to the outcome of the game, IHSA invited Fenwick to submit an appeal to the IHSA Board,” the statement read. “Early Monday morning, the IHSA Board determined that it would not hear the appeal. As a result, in an effort to protect the rights and rightfully earned opportunities of its students, Fenwick High School has filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois seeking declaratory, injunctive and other relief against IHSA.”
Fenwick was leading Plainfield North 10-7 late in the fourth quarter. As time expired, Fenwick quarterback Jacob Keller heaved a fourth-and-15 pass down field while his teammates celebrated the apparent victory on the sideline.
But game officials flagged Keller for intentional grounding and allowed Plainfield North an extra play from the spot of the penalty, the Fenwick five-yard line, which the Tigers converted to a game-tying field goal.
Plainfield North went on to win the game in overtime.
By rule, however, Plainfield North never should have been allowed a final play. IHSA Executive director Craig Anderson released a statement acknowledging as much late Saturday.
“The game should have concluded on the final play of regulation and the untimed down should not have been awarded,” he wrote.
Citing IHSA bylaw 6.033, which says “the decisions of game officials shall be final; protests against the decision of a game official shall not be reviewed by the Board of Directors,” Anderson said he would not overturn the game’s outcome.
But they should, Fenwick coach Gene Nudo told the Chicago Tribune.
“There will never ever be a protest for an egregious act as long as that rule is there,” Nudo told Tribune reporter Mike Helfgot. “It’s a great way to hide behind something — it is final and that is it. How is that the right thing to do?
“I’m not one of these guys always banging on the IHSA. I get it, they don’t have an easy gig over there. In this instance they had a chance to right a wrong and they didn’t.”