In Oklahoma, a high school football game has never been replayed for legal reasons.
Yet on Wednesday, a judge will rule whether or not Class 3A teams Locust Grove and Frederick A. Douglass High School of Oklahoma City will replay the final 64 seconds—or the entirety—of their Nov. 28 match-up because of a mistake made by a referee.
The botched call came near the game's final minute, as Douglass High School scored on a 58-yard touchdown pass.
According to a video recording of the game, an excited Douglass coach ran along the sideline and appeared to unintentionally bump one of the referees.
Earlier, the team was given a warning for the same violation.
A flag on the coach should have been a minor infraction, a five-yard penalty enforced on the ensuing kickoff, according to the rule book. But instead, the referee team took away the touchdown, as well as Douglass' 25-20 lead.
The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has since apologized to Douglass, calling the referees’ botched call “inexcusable." Yet they also claimed that national and state bylaws don't allow protesting of a game's outcome because of the officiating.
Oklahoma City public school officials are still seeking to have the game replayed.
During the hearing, Judge Bernard M. Jones II has shown skepticism about courts intervening in athletic contests, though last week he prohibited Locust Grove from playing its next playoff game.
According to The New York Times, he added that "a decision to order a replay would be extraordinary."
Regardless of the judge's ruling, appeals are likely, and—to the dismay of the Locust Grove football team—so is the continued delay of the playoffs.
“It would be a travesty for high school athletics — maybe all of athletics — if we’re going to let the courts get involved every time there’s a bad call,” Locust Grove coach Matt Hennesy said. “In football, you deal with the elements, turnovers, injuries, officials’ bad calls. That’s part of the game.”
Thursday Update: The decision was delayed until Thursday morning. Judge Jones has ruled that the game will not be replayed and that the OSSAA does not have to keep Douglass High School in the state playoffs, despite the erroneous call.
In his order, Jones wrote “there is neither clear nor convincing evidence supporting the granting of injunctive relief.”
Jones granted Douglass an injunction last week, pushing back part of the Oklahoma 3A playoffs a week. Tough break for the student-athletes at Douglass.