Judge: Plainfield North, not Fenwick, should play in title game

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Fenwick High School wanted a judge to overturn a referee’s decision that kept them out of the Class 7A championship game. | Sun-Times file photo

A Cook County judge on Wednesday ruled that Plainfield North — not Fenwick High School — should play in the Class 7A football championship on Saturday.

Plainfield North will play East St. Louis for Class 7A state title.

After the ruling, Fenwick Principal Peter Groom said Fenwick won’t pursue the issue, and that the focus should be on the 16 teams playing this weekend.

Judge Kathleen G. Kennedy agreed Fenwick had shown “irreparable harm” but did not prove that the Illinois High School Association had applied its rules inconsistently.

Fenwick had lost the semifinal last Saturday to Plainfield North after a mistake by the officials led to a tying field goal. Plainfield North then won in overtime. You can watch the end of the game here.

David Bressler, an attorney for the Illinois High School Association had argued that it was “absurd” of Fenwick to try to get a decision made on the field by officials overturned later in court.

“I wish there was a way Fenwick could play but there isn’t,” Bressler told Kennedy. “Your honor, I ask that you have the courage to stay out of this.”

But Peter Rush, an attorney for Fenwick, said IHSA rules are a contract, and that contract ended at end of regulation. Officials, he said, “had no right to order teams to play overtime.”

The courtroom was packed for Kennedy’s ruling; the crowd included about a dozen Fenwick students.

Rush had cautioned that crowd as Kennedy deliberated: “No outbursts, no matter the result. … This is a court of law.” And that admonishment appeared to have an impact, as the Fenwick students who were there joined administrators in saying they would accept the ruling — though one older Fenwick alum was criticizing the decision in a TV interview.

Still, Fenwick quarterback Jacob Keller was disappointed.

“We kept faith that the IHSA, the judge and Plainfield North would do the right thing,” said Keller, who did not attend the hearing. “They lost that game. They didn’t beat us. Someday I’m going to have to explain to my kids why I didn’t play in the state title game.”

Keller said he would probably get too angry watching Plainfield North warm up and wouldn’t be able to watch the Class 7A title game.

“I think East St. Louis is going to blow them out. I might watch a little.”

Keller, who has scholarship offers to play basketball and football in college, said the decision didn’t sour him on football.

“It left a bad taste in my mouth about the IHSA — not football.”

Officials mistakenly awarded Plainfield North an untimed down after calling a penalty on Fenwick for intentional grounding. Fenwick, of Oak Park, had thrown the ball downfield to run out the clock in what it expected would be the last play of the game.

Plainfield used the last play it was awarded to kick a tying field goal, then prevailed in overtime, 18-17.

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