A bizarre and controversial story is brewing in Tennessee, where one of the state's top football programs may have to compete in a state title game without its head coach after one of the more confusing ejection decisions you'll ever see.
As reported by the Tennessean and other sources, Ensworth High (Nashville) head coach Ricky Bowers was ejected from his team’s Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Division II-AA state semifinal against rival Brentwood Academy (Brentwood). The ejection was made following a game-ending fracas on a controversial fourth-quarter play in which Ensworth quarterback Coleman Goodwin was pushed off the field and directly into a concrete wall on the sideline by Brentwood Academy linebacker and Tennessee commit Derek Barnett.
After seeing his player driven into a wall in the play above, Bowers turned to check on his athlete, then ran toward the officials to argue for Barnett’s dismissal. Bowers got that and more, with the game officials officially ending the game with just 2 seconds on the clock, then ejecting both Barnett and Bowers, with the coach getting the heave-ho in quite emphatic fashion, according to Nashville Fox affiliate WZTV. The TV network said the official who ejected both the coach and Barnett explicitly told Bowers that he would have to miss Ensworth's next game: the Division II-AA state title game against Memphis University School (Memphis).
That decision would fit the TSSAA's traditional one-game ban for any player or coach ejected during a game. The trick in this case is simply that the next game on Ensworth’s schedule is the state final.
For his part, Bowers insists that he has no idea why he was suspended.
"I've got no idea," Bowers told the Tennessean. "It was so out of control at the end. I've got no idea what happened. I can’t imagine I was [ejected].
"All I know is [Derek Barnett] … ran our guy into the concrete wall. The referee came running over and I don’t know, it's pandemonium and he was saying, 'We're throwing this guy out of the game and you out of the game,' and everything. I have no idea. It was the most out-of-control officiating situation I've ever seen."
Bowers' suspension could still be overturned; an officials report from the game will be delivered to TSSAA headquarters Monday, and officials could decide to overturn the initial decision. For now, Ensworth will have to approach taking a shot at a fourth-straight state title without their leader on the sideline.
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