Appeal denied; No playoffs for Placer

CIF upholds ruling on Placer forfeits
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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The Placer High football team’s long, tumultuous season is over. The Hillmen were notified Saturday that their appeal of three forfeits has been denied by the California Interscholastic Federation’s board of appeals. A group of Placer representatives made their case to three-person board on Thursday in Lodi, challenging a ruling that the Hillmen used an ineligible player in the first five games of the season. The appeal denial along with Placer’s 34-12 loss to Whitney squashed the Hillmen’s hopes for their first playoff berth since 2000. A reversal of the forfeits, which included Pioneer Valley League wins over Mesa Verde and El Dorado, would have given Placer the No. 3 seed out of the PVL for the upcoming Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV playoffs. Joey Montoya spent much of Saturday afternoon and evening on the phone, breaking the bad news to his players and coaches, one at a time. “I’m obviously disappointed, heartbroken,” Montoya said Saturday. “Mostly for the kids and coaches who’ve put their hearts and souls into this season. I reflected on things and the reality is, we went 6-4 and we lost to four good playoff teams. We should have been in the playoffs and we had an opportunity to play for the league championship in just our second year together.” Placer appealed a decision by section commissioner Pete Saco that the team used a player that had improper paperwork filed on his transfer from Bethel High in Vallejo. Placer athletic director Mark Lee admitted the error after the section ruled he should have been filed as a “hardship” transfer rather than a “valid change of residence,” according to section bylaws. The CIF board of appeals stood behind the section’s decision, though an official statement on the appeal’s rejection has not been released. “I’m surprised and very disappointed,” said Art Woodward, an attorney who helped organize Placer’s appeal effort. “It’s absurd that the CIF believes they are above state law, that their bylaws are not subject to state law.” Both Montoya and Woodward said legal action is not out of the question. “We’re going to talk to our lawyer and talk to the administration to see if we are going to take any more steps,” Montoya said. “Who knows what might still happen?” A lawsuit ruling in Placer’s favor would not affect the team’s standing for the playoffs. League champion Whitney, runner-up Bear River and third place Colfax will begin postseason play on Friday. Saturday’s bad news failed to dampen the spirit of Placer’s irrepressible coach. “We’ve had a season where it’s been a roller coaster of emotions for our team,” Montoya said. “I could not be more proud of their resilience and their character. It’s a testament to the type of people they are, to put themselves in a position to compete each week. “It’s great to be a Hillman. We know what the truth is and what we really accomplished.”