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No reprieve: Jefferson Saints error will keep team from playoffs

9:09 PM, Oct 24, 2013   |    comments
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UPDATE: The Colorado High School Activities Association stood firm in the face of pressure from the Jefferson High community Thursday, upholding a decision that ends the Saints first winning season since 1996. Jefferson scheduled ten games for 2013, one more than is allowed by CHSAA bylaws. CHSAA ruled Jefferson must forfeit its Week Zero win, which was the improperly scheduled game, as well as this weekend's scheduled contest against Nederland, which is being nixed because it would be a prohibited 10th game. Because the Saints are playing down a class after decades of poor showings, they had to win their class outright to be guaranteed a playoff spot. CHSAA says the Saints finish prior to the forfeits would have put them in contention but would not have guaranteed a playoff spot. With two losses on the record, Saints head coach Anthony Rankin says the team is mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

EDGEWATER - It could have been one of the great comeback stories in Colorado prep sports history. But the Jefferson Saints are almost certainly not going to the playoffs and it's not the kids' fault.

The Saints have gone marching into a lot of locker rooms beaten over the last 20 years. For the longest time, they didn't have a prayer.

There was a 2-and-77 stretch so painful that the school in Edgewater folded the football team for a time. The Saints haven't had a winning season since 1996, before most of the current team was born.

Perhaps that's why did they didn't know they were supposed to stink. They didn't know they were never supposed to go 8-and-1 this year and sit on the verge of a wild card playoff spot in 2A.

But this isn't a story about what the team didn't know. It's about what the adults didn't know.

Saints head coach Anthony Rankin says he scheduled a 10th game for the team based on his reading of a CHSAA rule that states "2A will play a 9 game regular season." Rankin says he thought that meant at least nine games.

CHSAA says the coach is wrong and the resulting forfeit appears to have eliminated Jefferson from playoff contention.

"I was always under the impression it was your option to play a 10th game," Rankin said. "The rule isn't clear."

School athletic directors typically partner with coaches to arrange schedules. Jefferson has been through three athletic directors in three years. The current AD wasn't on the job when the 10th game was scheduled.

"The bottom line is that schools are responsible for their scheduling and I think someone just made a mistake," said CHSAA vice president Bert Borgmann.

Jefferson's parent district, Jeffco Schools, is backing CHSAA's decision.

"It's a shame because between the kids and the coaches over there have done such a great job over the last couple years," said Jim Thyfault, Jeffco Schools executive director of athletics.

"Bottom line, they scheduled one too many games and it didn't get caught," Thyfault said. "I think what we teach the kids is we made a mistake and we own up to it and do our best to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Thyfault says there is still a slim chance for Jefferson to make the playoffs. Rankin says he's crunched the numbers and it's "almost impossible."

Jefferson coaches broke the news to the team Wednesday.

"We had to sit there and watch these kids cry in the classroom," said assistant coach Terry Luster. "Our goal is to teach these kids that anything is possible. That's what we've told to them all year and for it to be taken away would be a travesty."

Jefferson players and parents preparing for the playoffs are stunned.

"We just want it to keep on going so we could get to the championships," said freshman Dameon Carr. "It's really disappointed me and the team."

"Somebody should have caught it," said his mother, Charmel. "It's just disheartening and it makes us angry."

Rankin said he stands by his interpretation of the rules and is hoping that pressure from parents and community members will convince CHSAA to change its mind, even if Jeffco Schools have accepted the outcome.

This will still be the first winning season for the Jefferson Saints since 1996. But it goes into the record book with an asterisk and a lot of heart ache.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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