An Oklahoma County judge ruled Thursday that the court will not force any part of a rival high school football game to be replayed after a penalty was incorrectly enforced and likely cost a team the playoff victory.
Judge Bernard Jones ordered that Locus Grove's Nov. 28 victory over Douglass will stand, and Grove will advance to the state semi-final, KOCO.com reported.
But the decision will likely not sit well with Douglass, which contended in court that an improperly enforced penalty erased a touchdown that would have put them ahead of their rival with 64 seconds left.
Douglass lost the game 20-19 and appealed the final to the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. The association's staff declined the appeal, then its board rejected the replay options, prompting Douglass to go to court.
Jones postponed the semifinal, which was to be played last Friday, to decide what to do about the game.
Jones could have ordered a replay of the entire game or, according to some, replay the final 1:04 of the fourth quarter. That was the point at which Douglass wide receiver Qua’Sean Sims caught a short pass on 4th down and raced to the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown.
An excited Douglass coach, racing along the sideline as Sims wove his way toward the goal line, bumped into a referee, drawing a penalty flag. But instead of assessing a 5-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff, as the rule book dictates, the referee nullified the score.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association later apologized and called the blown call "inexcusable." But it refused to accept a protest or conduct a review of the game due to the on-the-field ruling.
Douglass' attorneys argued that the OSSAA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Douglass’ petition to overturn the result. The school's players have continued to practice in the hope that their season is not over.
The Times spoke with a lawyer who wrote "Sports Officiating: A Legal Guide," who said the chances of court intervention was unlikely.
"The courts are very sensitive to the fact that if they start to utilize their powers to overturn decisions of officials-- whether they're right or wrong-- then you would basically have athletic competition decided in the courtroom, and not the field. That would kind of be a full-time job in some places," Alan S. Goldberger said.
Jones, in his ruling, wrote, "While mindful of the frustrations of the young athletes who feel deprived by the inaction of (OSSAA), it borders on the unreasonable ... to think this court more equipped or better qualified than (OSSAA) to decide the outcome of any portion of a high school football game."
The Associated Press contributed to this report