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Judge set to issue ruling Monday

Update: Placer High football forfeit fight postpones Colfax playoff game

By: Mike Ray and Gus Thomson, Gold Country News Services
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A judge issued a restraining order Friday putting the Colfax-Oakdale high school playoff football game scheduled for that night on hold. The order followed a court action filed Thursday by a foster child advocacy group on behalf of a Placer High School player and supported by an ad hoc group of attorney-parents of players on the Auburn team. Bryn Martyna, attorney with Oakland’s National Center for Youth Law, said the issue before the courts is whether the California Interscholastic Federation bylaws are in compliance with state laws pertaining to equal access to education for students in foster-care. A judge issued a restraining order Friday putting the first-round Colfax-Oakdale playoff game on hold. A ruling is scheduled for Monday in Oakland, likely determining whether Placer or Colfax will continue in the playoffs. The first-round playoff game could take place as early as Monday or Tuesday. Section officials have not announced when the game would be played. Placer coach Joey Montoya said Friday afternoon his team had not practiced since its loss to Whitney Nov. 14 and he hasn’t even seen video of the Oakdale team. “We didn’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” Montoya said. “But apparently the judge saw that something didn’t look right.” After the Alameda County judge issued a temporary restraining order on the Colfax-Oakdale game the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section issued a statement announcing the game would not be played Friday. The restraining order has “seriously jeopardized the Division IV playoffs," the statement said. The ruling is part of an effort by Placer parents to overturn a CIF ruling that forced the Hillmen to forfeit three games, keeping the team from section playoffs. Assistant Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner John Williams confirmed Friday that Section Commissioner Pete Saco was in Oakland for the hearing. Colfax was scheduled to play at Oakdale Friday in the first round of the Div. IV playoffs. The Falcons’ bus was turned around in Sacramento after news of the postponement was announced. The three other Div. IV playoff games were played, with Dixon, Whitney and Sierra advancing to the semifinals. At the center of the controversy is Placer’s use of a player who was declared ineligible because of the failure of the school to put through hardship transfer paperwork after he moved into Placer’s attendance boundary from Vallejo. Martyna said that while a ruling in the organization’s favor should give Placer its wins back and put the team in the playoffs, the legal action is looking at the bigger picture. “What everyone cares about is that when a foster kid moves to another district, there aren’t barriers to participate in sports,” she said. “The problem is foster kids can’t move with their immediate family.” Attorney Art Woodward, whose son, Sam, plays on the Hillmen football team, spearheaded the appeal of the initial forfeit ruling. A three-member board denied the appeal last Saturday. Woodward said Friday he attempted to convince the board that state law — particularly the 4-year-old Assembly Bill 490 on equal access to education for foster children — trumped the hardship paperwork requirements. “I tried to explain it but they wouldn’t listen to me,” Woodward said. Woodward said that he questioned Saco during the hearing and the commissioner said he wasn’t aware of AB 490. Saco also said that CIF hadn’t instructed athletic directors on AB 490, Woodward said. The appeal denial led to the involvement of the national organization, he said. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournalcom.