Undefeated high school football team forfeits wins after using ineligible player in different jersey

A top Missouri high school football team forfeited all wins from an undefeated 2019 season and the program's head coach was fired as part of self-imposed sanctions after it was discovered the squad was using an ineligible player wearing a different jersey.

Brandon Gregory, who was hired by Cardinal Ritter to lead the football team in 2016, was removed from his position, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday. The Missouri High School Activities Association told the newspaper it had accepted Cardinal Ritter’s self-imposed sanctions over the issue.

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Cardinal Ritter self-reported the use of an ineligible player to the state’s high school sports governing body Tuesday, according to the Post-Dispatch. The issue stems from the school using a player who was supposed to be suspended for the first game of the season but played anyway using a different name.

Junior Bill Jackson, who was ejected from the 2018 Class 3 state championship game, was set to be suspended for the team’s first game of the 2019 season. However, a player, who later was identified as Jackson, appeared in a No. 24 jersey for the team’s first game. For the charade, the player was identified during the contest as freshman Marvin Burks. The next week, Jackson was back on the field, but this time with his own name and wearing his normal jersey.

Jackson’s unique tattoos apparently gave away the scam.

Gregory had spoken to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Jackson "returned" in Week 2 and rushed for 147 yards.

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“He earned it, he deserved it. It was his time to play ball,” Gregory said.

Cardinal Ritter also “permanently released” the entire coaching staff of the football team, and the school’s athletic director, Preston Thomas, made the “decision to retire.”

Gregory told KMOV-TV on Friday he thought Jackson sitting for a Jamboree game satisfied the suspension. Gregory, however, said he takes responsibility for not knowing the rules.

“That's kinda my wrongdoing of not knowing the rules and that he shouldn't have not sat out the jamboree, he should have sat out week one so that's what happened,” he said.

Gregory also denied he was trying to cover up the fact Jackson was on the field by switching his number during the Week 1 game.

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“That's a thing our kids do on the regular basis, you know, they try to change jersey numbers and sometimes don't let us know,” he said.