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Conflicting court orders could halt Alabama football playoffs

Jonathan Wall
Prep Rally

The Alabama High School Athletic Association's Class 6A football playoffs haven't even started, and already there's a controversy brewing in the opening-round game between Gasden City (Ala.) High and Spain Park (Ala.) High. The two schools were scheduled to play each other on Friday night, but a judge's ruling now has Gasden City wondering if the school is even in the playoffs.

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After preparing all week for Spain Park, Gasden City learned on Tuesday that Clay-Chalkville (Ala.) High would be taking its spot in the playoffs, after a judge ruled that Clay-Chalkville wouldn't have to forfeit nine games for using an ineligible player.

As the Birmingham News reported, Judge Helen Shores Lee of the Jefferson County Circuit Court, sided with Clay-Chalkville in its appeal of a ruling by the Alabama High School Athletic Association. The AHSAA had ordered the team to forfeit the games earlier in the season, but the school decided to let a judge make the final ruling.

The temporary restraining order handed down by the judge means Clay-Chalkville will play Spain Park in the opening round. Needless to say, Gasden City was furious with the decision, filing an injunction of its own within 45 minutes of the ruling.

"We're asking that the original ruling by the AHSAA [to disqualify Clay-Chalkville] be upheld," Gadsden City Schools superintendent Ed Miller told the Birmingham News. "It's a difficult situation for everybody but at the same time we needed to do what is important for Gadsden City High School."

Etowah County Circuit Court granted Gasden City's own motion for an injunction on Wednesday, meaning the two schools -- and the two legal rulings -- are now at a standstill. As the Birmingham News reported, this could now force the Alabama Supreme Court to call an emergency session to make a ruling.

While the ruling, on paper, appears to only affect Clay-Chalkville and Gasden City, this issue could turn the entire 6A playoffs on its head if a decision isn't made soon.

Gadsden City -- which was the No. 5 seed in Class 6A, Region 7 before the report turned in by Huffman High School -- rose to claim the No. 4 playoff seed from the region when Clay-Chalkville was forced to forfeit its nine previous victories this season for playing an ineligible player that had been expelled from Huffman High School.

What exactly does that mean? It means that at the moment, teams in Alabama's Region 6 or Region 7 of the 6A playoffs have no idea who they're playing ... and therefore can't possibly play any of those scheduled games. A decision in favor of Gasden City could keep the playoffs as is. But if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Clay-Chalkville, the seedings could be changed, and the first-round matchups would then change as a result.

And all of this is happening just days before the opening round of the playoffs. Needless to say, this is turning into a major headache for the AHSAA. With a decision needing to be made, you can only hope the Alabama Supreme Court intervenes and makes a final ruling for the sake of Alabama head coaches' sanity, if nothing else.

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