By RYAN HERMAN
East Lincoln had its school-record 19-game winning streak snapped at Gastonia Forestview on Sept. 13.
Technically, it ended much sooner.
Mustangs head football coach and athletic director Mike Byus on Wednesday morning released a statement saying his team was forfeiting its first three games this season due to its use of an academically ineligible player.
Byus said in the statement, which was emailed to several area newspapers and members of the media, the player in question was allowed to participate “due to a clerical error.” Byus was made aware of the situation the Monday prior to his team’s non-conference game at Forestview, he said, and then followed protocol and informed the NCHSAA and Lincoln County Schools of the infraction.
“In the process of switching over from one computer program to another the
information necessary to check that piece (of eligibility) was not accessible,” the statement read.
The state and NCHSAA minimum for credits earned for a junior to participate in high school athletics is 12, but in Lincoln County the standard is 13, Byus said.
Per NCHSAA rule, the Local Education Agency’s standards must be met as well as those set forth by the state’s high school athletics governing body. In this case they were not.
The school cannot legally release the player’s name due to privacy laws.
“No rule was intentionally broken,” Byus said. “In fact, he would be eligible in many districts across the state.”
“I feel terrible for all the young men who have put in many hours of hard work to achieve this level of success only to have it taken away,” Byus added. “It’s very disappointing, however, the only alternative we have is to accept it and move on.”
The player dressed for East Lincoln’s first three games –– at East Gaston, against Charlotte Q Foundation and against North Lincoln –– and played, “2 minutes or less all year,” Byus said in a text message to the Lincoln Times-News. By rule, all a player must do to be considered to have participated is dress out, not play.
The player was removed from the team prior to its 44-27 loss at Forestview.
Byus said he has “made every appeal that is allowable by (the) NCHSAA over the past several months,” but those appeals were unsuccessful.
The end result means the second-ranked Mustangs are now 4-4 overall –– 0-4 in non-conference play –– but still have their perfect 4-0 mark in the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference and are tied with undefeated Maiden (8-0, 4-0) for first.
Those two teams meet at East Lincoln next week.
Locally, the forfeits impact North Lincoln, which was defeated by East Lincoln 34-7 on Sept. 6 –– its last on-the-field win in the 19-game streak. The Knights now have a 3-5 record overall.
Officially, the East Lincoln school record for consecutive wins now stands at 16, which all came last season as it went 16-0 and won its first state title in the sport.
“Our players have said, ‘they know what they accomplished on the field and no one can take that away from them,’ Byus said. “The kids are keeping a positive attitude about the rest of the season and are ready to move to putting this behind them.”