Jaguars changing plans for playoffs

Spain Park High School quarterback Nick Mullens and his teammates are preparing to face Clay-Chalkville in the first round of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A playoffs. (File Photo)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Spain Park High School football coach Chip Lindsey traveled to Montgomery for a meeting Oct. 29 in advance of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A playoffs.

At the meeting, Lindsey was told by AHSAA officials his team would travel to Oxford in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs Nov. 4.

Following an injunction issued by a Jefferson County Circuit Court judge Nov. 1, Lindsey said AHSAA officials have told him the Jaguars will travel to Clay-Chalkville, which had nine wins and a Class 6A region championship restored after the accomplishments were initially stripped by the AHSAA for using an ineligible player through the first nine weeks of the regular season. A hearing has been set for Nov. 10 at 1:30 p.m.

Gadsden City High School, which was removed from the Class 6A playoffs when Clay-Chalkville was reinstated, has been granted an injunction in the Etowah County Circuit Court to change the playoff bracket back to the terms defined by the AHSAA ruling. A hearing is set for Nov. 9 at 2:30 p.m.

“As of now, we’re preparing to play Clay-Chalkville,” Lindsey said.

Jim Williams, a lawyer representing the AHSAA, said the association planned to file a petition with the Alabama Supreme Court this afternoon. Williams noted the Decatur Board of Education has also filed a motion for an injunction in the Morgan County Circuit Court to allow Austin to host its playoff game, which can’t happen if Clay-Chalkville participates in the playoffs.

“We’re asking the court to set aside (the injunctions) and conduct the playoffs in accordance with AHSAA rules,” Williams said. “We’re very hopeful a ruling will come before Friday.”

Ann Wilson, a secretary in the Alabama Supreme Court clerk’s office, said Court Clerk Robert G. Esdale, Sr. has received the petition from the AHSAA at 4:30 p.m. Wilson said the Alabama Supreme Court plans to hear the case, but couldn’t yet confirm a time or date for the hearing.

“A petition has been received,” Wilson said. “The clerk’s office is in the process of putting it on the docket.”

Lindsey said the Jaguars spent a few days preparing for a game against Oxford, which claimed the region championship vacated by Clay-Chalkville following the AHSAA’s initial ruling, before turning their focus toward the undefeated Cougars.

“We prepared for (Oxford),” Lindsey said. “We had to switch gears. It’s not the most convenient thing to do, but we’ll play whoever the (AHSAA) tells us to play.”

Spain Park had to hold its breath until the final night of the regular season to clinch a Class 6A playoff berth. Following a 38-35 loss to Clay-Chalkville in their final regular season game Oct. 27, the Jaguars didn’t learn they clinched a bid until Pelham’s 42-30 loss on the road Oct. 28 at Hewitt-Trussville.

“We’re just excited to be part of the playoffs,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey said he the Jaguars will be well prepared for the first-round meeting with Clay-Chalkville after facing the Cougars last week, but he doesn’t think it will offer any advantages for Spain Park on the field.

“It doesn’t help when you’re playing a team as good as Clay-Chalkville,” Lindsey said.