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.

Update: LHSAA rejects Amite’s appeal; school plans lawsuit over ‘harsh’ decision to remove team from playoffs

Original story:

It was a typical LHSAA executive committee meeting day with the exception of one plot twist.

LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine confirmed as the Tuesday meeting ended that Amite High School has been removed from the Class 3A football semifinals because of a game-ending fight that took place Friday night.

Amite will appeal Bonine’s decision at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the LHSAA office as part of the second day of the executive committee meeting.

AHS, the 11th seed, was scheduled to host No. 15 St. James on Friday night. Bonine said Amite opted to close the appeal to the public and media.

“We were not notified about what happened until Sunday,” Bonine said of the fight. “By the time the assignment secretary got the voice message from the (referee) about it, he was en route to his NFL game.

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“I called Mr. (Keith) Alexander (LHSAA assistant executive director over officials) and he started making calls. And he found out yes there was a big (fight) … one that cleared the benches.”

If the ruling is upheld, St. James would advance to the 3A title game next week to face the West Feliciana-Lutcher winner. Amite coach Zephaniah Powell declined comment.

St. James coach Dwain Jenkins cautioned his team not to jump to any conclusions.

“I found out about it Friday night because the son of a coach from here, who lives in the Hammond area (and) went to the game,” Jenkins said. “There were things on social media and in the Hammond and Bogalusa papers. There was a video somewhere at one point.

“I’m just glad I got to talk to our kids about it (Tuesday) before we left practice, so they’re not hearing about it at home or social media. This is a not a done deal by any means. There’s an appeal process in place. I told our players the last two days we have to prepare for Amite’s best.”

Amite, last year’s 3A runner-up, was leading District 7-3A rival Bogalusa 56-20 when the benches-clearing fight happened with less than two minutes remaining, Bonine said.

Under the LHSAA’s sportsmanship rules, players who leave the bench area during a fight are automatically suspended for the next game.

Bonine said both schools were part of a Monday hearing at the LHSAA office and said Amite was informed of his decision late Monday, leading to the appeal.

Bonine said no one produced video of the altercation. Eyewitness accounts of game’s officials from the Thibodaux Association were cited during the Monday hearing.

“I don’t have video, but I don’t need the video,” Bonine said. “I have the eyewitness accounts of the two officials in the press box, side judges and the back judges as well as the (referee) saying every player was on the field. Nobody was left on the bench.

“There were fights everywhere. (The school’s job) is to provide me with information that would sway the preponderance of the evidence that they didn’t have anybody fighting.”

Bonine cited National Federation of State High School Associations rules and LHSAA rules to make his ruling.

“Courts and fields are an extension of the educational classroom. What would happen if a fight like this broke out in a math class? I guarantee you the classroom would be cleared.”