Judge says Plainfield North, not Fenwick, should play in Class 7A title game

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Fenwick’s QB Jacob Keller (1) is chased by Loyola’s Anthony Romano (40) during their football game Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in River Forest. | Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times

A Cook County judge Wednesday ruled Plainfield North, not Fenwick, should play in the Class 7A championship game against East St. Louis on Saturday in Champaign.

Fenwick principal Peter Groom said he was disappointed by the decision but indicated the school wouldn’t pursue the matter further.

‘‘We owed our students a fair hearing of their grievance,’’ Groom said. ‘‘We received a fair hearing, and now it is finished.’’

The Friars lost their semifinal Saturday after an officiating mistake led to a tying field goal. Plainfield North then won in overtime.

Peter Rush, Fenwick’s lawyer, argued that the Illinois High School Association’s rules are a contract and that the contract ended at the end of regulation. He said officials had no right to order the teams to play overtime.

IHSA bylaws say officials’ decisions can’t be overturned. Rush argued the rule says only that the IHSA board can’t overturn them.

‘‘It doesn’t say a court of law in the United States can’t do it,’’ Rush said.

David Bressler, the IHSA’s lawyer, countered that no game is perfectly officiated and that Fenwick agreed to the bylaws when it joined the IHSA.

‘‘Really, the result they are looking for is absurd,’’ Bressler said. ‘‘By contract, Fenwick has agreed to this. I wish there was a way Fenwick could play, but there isn’t. Your honor, I ask that you have the courage to stay out of this.’’

Judge Kathleen G. Kennedy deliberated for nearly 45 minutes.

‘‘Here, as on the playing field, one side wins and one side loses,’’ Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Fenwick had shown ‘‘irreparable harm’’ but didn’t prove the IHSA had applied its rules inconsistently.

‘‘There is no celebration, and there are no winners in this circumstance,’’ IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement. ‘‘It is simply a resolution. The Fenwick community has been dealt a pair of devastating blows over the past few days, while Plainfield North had a historic moment shrouded in controversy simply for following the rules provided for them, first by the game officials and then by the IHSA.’’

Rush had cautioned the crowd in the courtroom while Kennedy deliberated.

‘‘No outbursts no matter the result,’’ he said. ‘‘This is a court of law.’’

That admonishment appeared to have an effect. The Fenwick students who were there joined administrators in saying they would accept the ruling, though one older Fenwick alum criticized the decision in a TV interview.

Still, Friars quarterback Jacob Keller was disappointed.

‘‘We kept faith that the IHSA, the judge and Plainfield North would do the right thing,’’ said Keller, who didn’t 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 probably would get too angry watching Plainfield North warm up and wouldn’t be able to watch the title game.

‘‘I think East St. Louis is going to blow them out,’’ he said. ‘‘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,’’ he said.

Officials awarded Plainfield North an untimed down after calling a penalty on Fenwick for intentional grounding. The Friars had thrown the ball downfield to run out the clock in what it expected would be the last play of the game. Plainfield North used the last play it was awarded to kick a tying field goal, then prevailed in overtime 18-17.

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