Holy Spirit to forfeit opening victory

Posted: September 14, 2011

Holy Spirit might still be the best football team in South Jersey.

But the Spartans suddenly have a losing record.

Holy Spirit will forfeit Friday's 41-16 victory over Oakcrest because of the use of an academically ineligible player, athletic director Keith Gorman said Wednesday.

Gorman said the player was a transfer student who was academically ineligible at his previous high school.

"A mistake was made," said Gorman, who stressed that Holy Spirit had "self-reported" the violation to the Cape-Atlantic League and NJSIAA. "We broke a rule unknowingly."

Gorman said although the player was cleared by school officials to participate in Friday night's season opener, the athletic director had a "weird feeling" Monday that the situation might merit another look.

"It was one of those moments when you say, 'You know, we better re-check this,' " Gorman said.

Mainland athletic director Mike Gately, the president of the Cape-Atlantic League, said the situation was "cut-and-dried" since Holy Spirit was self-reporting the violation.

"One of our goals has been to go undefeated," Spartans coach Chalie Roman said. "We'll still regard ourselves that way if we're able to win the rest of our games. Our kids know they won the game on the field."

Gately said the forfeit would become official when he receives paperwork from Holy Spirit, which he expected by the end of the week.

NJSIAA executive director Steve Timko declined comment because he had not received an official report on the forfeit. Timko said forfeits are handled at the conference level, and then forwarded to the NJSIAA.

Under NJSIAA rules involving use of an academically ineligible player, a team must forfeit victories in which the player participated but is not subject to additional punishment.

Holy Spirit, which will have a 0-1 record when the forfeit becomes official, is the No. 1 team in The Inquirer Top 10. The Spartans, who won the Non-Public 3 state title last season, are the favorites to win the Non-Public 2 state title this season.

"Thank God we didn't discover this in Week 5," Gorman said. "We'd have major problems qualifying for the playoffs."

Oakcrest, a Cape-Atlantic National Division and South Jersey Group 3 contender, will soon have a 1-0 record.

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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