|The ABGC Bulldogs. [Matha Brownlee]|
They were shut out, however, not by losing a game fair and square. They were beaten by a team that violated the rules. Despite a protest to the Fairfax County Youth Football League (FCYFL), the opposing team was not required to forfeit the game.
During the first round of a playoff game on Nov. 5, Bulldogs Coach Cardell Haskins Sr. noticed a blocker on the other team, the Herndon Hornets, was listed on the roster as weighing 86 pounds. That was a clear violation of the FCYFL rule, which prohibits any Anklebiter player weighing more than 70 pounds from playing in any field position where they handle the ball.
When the clock ran out, the score was 7-7, with the overweight player contributing to the Hornets’ touchdown. Haskins alerted an official to the rule discrepancy, and the Hornets coach, Jamarll Johnson, agreed to take the player out of the backfield. But then when the game went into overtime, the Hornets scored again and won the game.
Haskins, who has been volunteering as a football coach for 28 years, including 15 years at ABGC, says the weight rule is aimed at preventing concussions. “My whole concern is the safety of the kids.” He believes rules are rules and should be followed, and didn’t object when he was suspended for two games this season for disputing a referee’s call.
The FCYFL later agreed to postpone a championship game, originally scheduled for Nov. 12, in the wake of a slew of emails from Bulldogs parents.
When the FCYFL executive committee met Nov. 14 to consider the matter, they voted against requiring the Hornets coach to forfeit the game. Only about seven of the 24 committee members were in favor of a forfeit, says ABGC Football Commissioner Robert Meadows.
Meadows, who says he’s never seen a team have to forfeit a game in the 21 years he’s been a commissioner, says the majority of committee members didn’t want to overturn that record and didn’t want to punish the kids for a coach’s wrongdoing. The AGBC players are the ones being penalized, however, he notes.
The committee also suspended the Hornets coach for the championship game and put him on probation for the entire 2017 season, Meadows says. That means he can be permanently suspended if he commits another violation. [Johnson did not respond to a request for comments.]
Haskins says he doesn’t know if the Herndon Hornets coach was acting deliberately or not, but Meadows believes the coach knew he was breaking a rule but thought he could get away with it because it was a playoff game.
If the Hornets had been required to forfeit, the Bulldogs would have had a chance to play in the Anklebiter Division 4 championship game Nov. 19. Instead, the Hornets will play against a team from Alexandria.
At the end of the season the Alexandria team was number one, the Herndon team was number two, and the Bulldogs were number three. “We could have won if the game was played fair,” Meadows says.