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Simeon back in state football playoffs after IHSA ruling, but players don’t get to meet Lightfoot

The moves mean the Wolverines will be seeded by the IHSA in the playoffs, but the strike must end by Tuesday or they will have to forfeit their first-round game.

George Robinson at Simeon’s football practice.
George Robinson at Simeon’s football practice.
Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun Times

Three Chicago Public League football teams, including highly ranked Simeon, are back in the playoffs — for now.

The Illinois High School Association board agreed to allow the Wolverines, along with Phoenix Military Academy and Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville, to be seeded in the post-season despite a rule requiring teams play eight games to qualify. All three teams played just seven games.

The teams still have to hold three days of practice before the playoffs begin Nov. 2, meaning the strike must end by Tuesday or they will have to forfeit their first-round games.

“I just jumped up and yelled when I heard the news and gave all the guys a call,” Simeon quarterback Jacquez Woodland said. “We are so happy right now.”

Simeon’s scheduled Week 2 game against an out-of-state team fell through, leaving them a game short of the IHSA’s eight-game requirement. The teams have been unable to play or schedule enough games in part because of the strike.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more than them blessing us and giving us the opportunity to be back in the mix,” Simeon coach Dante Culbreath said.

The Wolverines (6-1), ranked No. 13 in the Super 25, are the best team in the Public League. Simeon beat Phillips earlier this month and are ranked third in the state in Class 6A by the Associated Press.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot walks out of City Hall shortly before a group of Simeon High School students were scheduled to request a meeting to voice their frustration over the impact the CTU strike is having on CPS students and athletes, Oct. 25, 2019.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot walks out of City Hall with Corporation Counsel Mark Flessner (left) shortly before a group of Simeon Career Academy High School students were scheduled to arrive and request a meeting to voice their frustration over the impact the Chicago Teachers Union strike is having on Chicago Public Schools students and athletes, Friday afternoon, Oct. 25, 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Angry students miss Lightfoot

Before the ruling, a group of CPS athletes led by Simeon football players, went to City Hall in search of Mayor Lori Lightfoot “to get our word across on how she took away our sport,” as one player said.

Although members of the group had told the Sun-Times of their intentions and publicized them on social media, they had not formally requested a meeting with Lightfoot and had no official appointment. Lightfoot, it turns out, left City Hall just minutes before they arrived.

“I think she’s afraid,” Simeon senior Khalyl Warren said.

The group, which included students from Simeon, Bogan, Phillips, King and Phoenix, supports the CTU’s strike and believes the city should meet the union’s demands.

A Lightfoot spokesperson said the mayor did not know the players wanted to meet. The spokesperson said the mayor was impressed with the students’ resolve.

“She applauds their willingness to stand up for their rights as both students and athletes, and she is committed to doing all that she can to support their future success — in the classroom, on the field, and beyond,” the spokesperson said.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson noted the negative impact on countless athletes and said these teams would have otherwise qualified if not for “circumstances beyond their control.”

“Due to these unique circumstances, the Board felt it appropriate to waive the minimum game rule for those impacted schools,” he said.

Anderson announced last week that according to IHSA board policy qualifying CPS teams will be placed in the playoff brackets when the pairings are released on Oct. 26. Around 20 Public League teams are likely to qualify.

The rule requiring three practices before a playoff game will not be modified, Anderson said. The teams have been unable to practice since Oct. 17 when the teachers walked out.

“Acclimatization in the sport of football has been a focal point of our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee over the past decade, and the medical professionals who advise us, believe it is vital to the safety of our student-athletes,” he said.