OKLAHOMA CITY — It took almost three weeks, but an Oklahoma high school football game finally came to an end Thursday.
The playoff game didn't end on the field, but in a courtroom, when Frederick A. Douglass High School's request for an injunction was denied by the Oklahoma County District Court.
The saga began Nov. 31 in Oklahoma City when Douglass played host to Locust Grove High School in the quarterfinals. Locust Grove had the lead late in the game and only needed to hold on for the final minutes to advance.
However, with 1:04 left on the clock, Douglass connected on a 65-yard touchdown pass that would have given them the lead. But as the receiver was streaking down the field into the endzone, Douglass coach Willis Alexander ran down the field celebrating the touchdown and inadvertently bumped into the referee.
Referee Chris Cervantes issued a penalty for going over the sideline.
By Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules, Douglass should have had a 5-yard penalty marked off against them on the ensuing kickoff. But seemingly no one on the referee crew knew or understood the rule and wiped away Douglass' touchdown all together.
Locust Grove hung on for a 20-19 win.
Alexander let his frustration be known, and the Oklahoma City School District took up the Douglass cause with the OSSAA. They were joined by lawyers and politicians, who believed the situation fell down racial lines because Douglass, an inner-city school, is predominantly black, and Locust Grove, in the rural part of the state, is mostly white.
"It's more than one high school," state Sen. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City said at a news conference. "Mainly, they were African-American high schools, predominantly black high schools that felt like they were oppressed by officiating that was implemented and misguided."
After the OSSAA apologized and acknowledged that a mistake had been made in applying the rules, the governing body still denied Douglass' appeal asking for either the entire game or the final 1:04 to be replayed.
The school district also asked for a temporary restraining order forbidding Locust Grove from advancing and playing its scheduled semi-final game, which would have been last week.
The judge agreed with the district argument and issued the temporary injunction until the case could be heard Wednesday. However, the other 3A semifinal was played last week.
The case was heard by Oklahoma County District Judge Bernard Jones on Wednesday. But he delayed his ruling until Thursday morning. According to NewsOK.com, he noted that "there is neither clear nor convincing evidence supporting the granting of injunctive relief."
Jones filed the order from his office and had no public hearing to announce the decision.
Keith Sinor, athletic director for Oklahoma City Public Schools, released a statement on the judge's ruling.
"From the beginning, the Oklahoma City Public School District (OKCPS) has been clear that we have a responsibility to support student athletes and do what is right," the statement read. "The Oklahoma Secondary Schools Athletic Association (OSSAA) game official admittedly applied the wrong penalty and OKCPS followed the proper legal process to request the wrong be made right. Unfortunately, the outcome of the hearing did not produce the results we hoped for."
Locust Grove will now move on to play Heritage Hall in the class 3A semifinals Friday in Sapulpa. Douglass will finally turn in its equipment to conclude its season.
I hope the Douglas coach does what he should have done all along, and make the situation a life lesson and not a fight. #okpreps— Eric T. Scott (@ericscott21) December 11, 2014