Photos: Amite chase Livonia, Mandeville keep Ponchatoula at bay in Thursday night prep football _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Amite coach Zephaniah Powell talks to his team in an Oct. 1 game against Livonia.

The LHSAA’s decision to remove Amite High School from the Class 3A football semifinals because of an on-the-field alternation that reportedly emptied both benches moved to the LHSAA boardroom on Wednesday and now is headed for the 19th Judicial District on Friday morning.

There also may be another legal destination. Hanging in the balance is whether or not 11th-seeded Amite (8-5) will host No. 15 St. James (10-3) for a semifinal game Friday night.

The LHSAA’s executive committee rejected Amite’s appeal of LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine’s decision to remove the team from the playoffs during its Wednesday meeting at the LHSAA office.

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board moved quickly to file a temporary restraining order that would put the Warriors, last year’s Class 3A runner-up, back in the playoffs. That hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Friday, according to the Moody Law Firm.

Attorney Chris Moody and Tangipahoa Superintendent Mark Kolwe both deemed the sanctions issued after a Monday hearing with Bonine at the LHSAA office as “harsh.”

Bonine, who has stressed sportsmanship during his nine months in the LHSAA’s top job, told the executive committee that if Tangipahoa won its appeal, the game would be played as originally scheduled. But he added the LHSAA would appeal to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal, which could lead to Amite being removed from the playoffs again.

At the heart of the dispute is an LHSAA bylaw which states that when players leave the bench area during an altercation they are automatically disqualified from playing in the next contest, regardless of whether they participated in a fight or not.

Amite was leading District 7-3A rival Bogalusa 56-20 with less than two minutes remaining in last Friday’s quarterfinal game when the altercation began. Game officials soon called the game.

No video evidence was available, but Bonine said testimony of game officials indicated no players remained on the bench for either team. The handbook sanctions would leave the school without enough players to compete.

Amite’s contention is that a number of players were on the field because of a touchdown and an ensuing extra point for special teams. Moody questioned whether the players were ejected. Taking away the opportunity for senior players to continue their quest for a state title was also deemed unfair by the Tangipahoa contingent.

“We had a very courteous, good review of the facts. We argued our case and suggested that what happened at the Amite-Bogalusa football game needed some attention,” Moody said after the appeal was denied. “There should be a penalty accessed to both teams because both teams left the bench. We said that many of our players were legitimately on the field and shouldn’t have been ejected.

“We respect that decision, but we disagree with it and think it is harsh. We suggested that the remedy ought to be exclusion from the next regular-season game.”

Bonine said making the ruling against Amite was not something he relished. Bonine also noted Amite and Bogalusa face a sportsmanship committee hearing on the game’s events once the playoffs conclude. At that time, additional fines and penalties may be levied.

“Do I like doing this? No. Because of the time line, we did this today,” Bonine said. “A decision had to be made. The bottom line is (Amite) thought my consequences were too punitive and nobody was ejected. I heard that. But on the other side of it we had a fight.”

In addition to citing LHSAA bylaw 5.11.8, which states that players leaving the bench are required to sit out the next contest, Bonine also cited a National Federation of High School Associations bylaw that states, “State Associations may intercede in the event of unusual incidents that occur before, during or after game officials jurisdiction has ended or in the event that a game is terminated prior to the conclusion of regulation play.”