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Florida boys soccer team booted from playoffs after AD’s ‘clerical error’

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A Florida high school boys soccer team's promising run toward a potential state title ended in sudden, shocking disbelief when its quarterfinal playoff victory was ruled a forfeit because of the use of an ineligible player. Now, the athletic director of the school in question has resigned after it emerged that the player in question had been cleared by the department because of a clerical error.

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Former George Jenkins athletic director Diane Werrick — Lakeland Ledger

Former George Jenkins athletic director Diane Werrick — Lakeland Ledger

As reported extensively by the Lakeland Ledger and BayNews9.com, among other sources, the Lakeland (Fla.) George Jenkins High boys soccer team was forced out of the state playoffs at the regional semifinal round after fielding an ineligible player for a single game, in the regional quarterfinals. During that game Jenkins knocked off Orlando (Fla.) Freedom High, 3-1.

Yet the true curiosity comes from why Jenkins officials ever thought that the player involved -- who has not been named -- would have been eligible to play in that game under any circumstances. As noted by the Ledger, the player was a fifth-year student who had yet to play in any of the team's games because he had been deemed academically ineligible. Once he finally was academically cleared -- in time for the Jan. 31 quarterfinal -- his four years of interscholastic eligibility in Florida had already expired.

The person eventually held responsible for that mistake was Jenkins athletic director Diane Werrick (pictured above), who resigned from her post on Monday amidst ongoing turmoil related to the team's untimely playoff elimination.

"A team ended their season without the chance at a state championship for no fault of their own," Werrick wrote in an email resignation to Jenkins principal Buddy Thomas.

"Eleven seniors will live with that forever never having the chance to know if they could have done it or have the chance to try again. I just wish that they could at least know that I do understand the magnitude of their pain and how sorry I am."

Of course, Werrick's regret can't get the team into the state playoffs, a rare opportunity which the Jenkins squad was on the verge of achieving. Similarly, Werrick's original insistence that the error was simply the result of a "clerical and computer glitch" didn't earn her much sympathy, either.

Nonetheless, Werrick's resignation will have to serve as the only available salve for players frustrated and hurt by an elimination in which they played no part, whether it helps or not.

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