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Judge Rules Against Fenwick's Bid To Overturn Playoff Loss

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Cook County judge has ruled against Fenwick High School's request to overturn the controversial result of its football team's semifinal loss to Plainfield North last weekend.

Plainfield North won in overtime last Saturday after tying the game on the final play of regulation -- an untimed down it shouldn't have had.

Fenwick was called for intentional grounding on a fourth-down play deep in its own territory as the clock expired in the fourth quarter. The officials then gave Plainfield North one more play -- in which it kicked a game-tying field goal -- that it shouldn't have had. Plainfield North then went on to win 18-17 in overtime.

The Illinois High School Association has admitted the referees made a mistake by giving Plainfield North an untimed down at the end of the game; but it said referees' rulings are final and can't be appealed, according to IHSA rules.

Fenwick wanted the court to intervene and declare them the winner, allowing it to play undefeated East Saint Louis in the Class 7A championship. However, Judge Kathleen Kennedy ruled against Fenwick, meaning Plainfield North will play in the title game instead.

Fenwick parent Claudia Kulhanek was upset with the judge's decision.

"I've been with these boys since freshman year. I'm a team mom. These boys have worked hard. We knew they were a special team, and we feel they've gotten robbed," she said.

However, Fenwick said it will not appeal the judge's ruling.

"We wish Plainfield North and East St. Louis the best of luck this coming weekend, and know that each will be able to hold their heads high upon its completion. We owed our students a fair hearing of their grievance. We received a fair hearing, and now it is finished," Fenwick principal Peter Groom said.

Although the judge ruled in the IHSA's favor, the association said the decision "is not a victory."

"There's no celebration and there are no winners in this circumstance. It is simply a resolution.

"The Fenwick High School 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.

"We will move forward now, in the short-term with eight state championship football games at the University of Illinois this weekend. In the long-run, it is our job as an Association, Board of Directors and membership to look at our policies and rules to see if and how we might be able to prevent instances like this in the future.

"We appreciate Judge Kennedy's ruling from the perspective that we believe it is vital for membership organizations like the IHSA to be able to self-govern within the rules set by our member schools. Judge Kennedy recognized the historic precedent that would have resulted if she had overturned the outcome of the game based on an officiating error. This is the same pitfall our membership foresaw in originally approving the by-law, and that our Board of Directors recognized in their decision not to consider an appeal."

Plainfield North also issued a statement after the judge's ruling:

"We reiterate our empathy for our friends from Fenwick High School and their supporters, however we appreciate the Court's decision and will continue to prepare to play in the state championship Saturday afternoon. We will do our best to be worthy of the opportunity and will represent District 202 proudly.

"As a voluntary member of the IHSA, Plainfield North High School abides by the directives, rules, and by-laws set forth. However there are processes in place for IHSA member schools to change IHSA governing by-laws to address circumstances such as these if members wish to do so. "

A lawyer for Plainfield North said people from Fenwick came up to him after court to wish Plainfield the best in the upcoming state championship, and he said "that shows a lot of class."

Fenwick principal Peter Groom resigned from the IHSA Board as a result of the incident.

A source told CBS 2 that the referees who officiated the game in question, were pulled off games this coming weekend. Their actions are under review going forward. It is unclear if they will officiate IHSA games next school year.

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