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Court decides protested call in Illinois playoff game

An erroneous untimed down call at the end of a playoff game is resolved in court.




The Illinois High School Association playoffs last Saturday ended in a way very similar to a game between Central Michigan University and Oklahoma State earlier this year. In the Class 7A semifinal (the second-largest class) between Plainfield North High School (Plainfield, Ill.) and Fenwick High School (Oak Park, Ill.), Fenwick had the ball on about their own 10-yard line on 4th down with a 10-7 lead and about 5 seconds left to play. The Fenwick quarterback launched a pass deep down the field to run out the clock, and the pass fell incomplete with no time left. The officials called intentional grounding, which is a loss of down penalty. The crew erroneously awarded Plainfield North an untimed down. Plainfield North kicked a field goal to tie the game, and went on to win in overtime (video).

According to NFHS rules, which the IHSA uses, a period is extended for an untimed down on any accepted live ball penalty except for those by the offense that carry a loss of down. Since intentional grounding has a loss of down provision, the game should have ended with that penalty. The crew that officiated the game was also supposed to work one of the finals this upcoming weekend, but they have been removed from that assignment. 

The NFHS rules and IHSA bylaws do not allow for the protest or overturning of an official’s decision, so the IHSA declined to change the outcome of the game. Fenwick sued the IHSA in Cook County court, and Judge Kathleen Kennedy upheld the IHSA’s ruling. Fenwick has stated they will not appeal, so Plainfield North will play East St. Louis in the state championship on Saturday.

Image: Comcast/NFHS Network

Patrick Weber is a four sport official working at the high school and college levels in football, baseball, basketball and soccer. He currently resides near Chicago, Illinois.

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