Football team forced to forfeit season opener after 20 players shockingly ruled ineligible

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A Washington high school entered the school year excited about a promising football program. Now, one week into the season, Puyallup (Wash.) Chief Leschi High is wondering if it will even be able to field a team after an astounding 20 of its players were deemed ineligible because of academic struggles or a lack of practice time.

The 2012 Chief Leschi football team had to forfeit its opener because of 20 ineligible players — YouTube
The 2012 Chief Leschi football team had to forfeit its opener because of 20 ineligible players — YouTube

Making matters worse, the school's coach only learned of his players' ineligibility shortly before his team's season opener, leaving it little choice but to forfeit. Officially it was a 2-0 loss.

The ineligibilities left Chief Leschi with only 11 eligible players, and state rules wouldn't allow a team to compete in a full game with such small numbers.

"It is a horrible thing," Chief Leschi coach Sauni Savini told the Tacoma News Tribune. "You never want to give up a game like that to anybody — they planned for the game, and we planned for it and for some reason, our kids … it's one of those things we have to build better character, build better commitment."

It's incredible that Chief Leschi could have come across this predicament, considering the fact that it started preseason training with a full 31-player squad.

For his part, Sauni promised the News Tribune that his squad would have enough players to field a team come the team's home opener on Sept. 21. In an incredibly lucky scheduling twist, the school has a scheduled bye week on Friday, spotting the program an entire additional week of practice time to hit the minimal requirements for players to be certified to compete.

If the school can't field a team that day, it would be overwhelmingly embarrassing, for a good reason: The school is scheduled to open its new football field in Puyallup with that game.

No wonder Savini's so dogmatic that his team will be playing a week from Friday.

"Rain or shine … we will field a team on opening day," Savini told the News Tribune. "By that point, we should have a healthy amount of guys."

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