A season that showed so much promise for Ridge View football is ending the same week that the South Carolina High School League playoffs begin.
The SCHSL appellate panel voted 6-0 Monday morning to uphold a ruling from last week that Ridge View used three ineligible players during the season.
The Blazers earned an 8-2 record on the field and were one of the ranked teams in the latest Class 4A statewide media poll. Once the sanctions were put in place, Ridge View had to forfeit the eight victories. That result will keep Ridge View out the playoffs that begin on Friday. Ridge View was also levied a fine of $500.
“I think the South Carolina High School League office kind of loses focus of young people,” Bakari Sellers, one of the attorney’s representing the players, told The State newspaper. “Here, you have three young men, great kids, great athletes trying to do the right thing, and they weren’t given any grace.”
The facts presented in the case were called 'inconclusive' by the appellate panel. Several administrators, including athletics director Brian Rosefield and football coach Derek Howard presented the case along with Sellers and two other attorneys from the Strom Law Firm.
Richland District 2 began an investigation on Sept. 23. They submitted their findings to the SCHSL early last week and stated that Ridge View played with ineligible players. The SCHSL executive committee voted 9-4 on Friday uphold the findings by the district. Ridge View was set to play AC Flora on Friday night with the Region 5-4A title on the line but the ruling earlier that day changed the dynamic of the game. AC Flora won 31-22 and the Blazers players had to wait until Monday morning to learn their fate for the playoffs.
It was revealed during the hearing on Monday that Blythewood High was instrumental in District 2 initiating the investigation against Ridge View. Blythewood is part of Richland District 2 and plays in the Class 5A classification.
The open part of the hearing centered around the eligibility of starting quarterback Donald Tomlin. The senior transferred from Heathwood Hall before the season. The debate was on if he and his family lived within the Richland 2 attendance zone. The parents were able to provide utility bills that showed it was indeed a change of address situation. “I have never seen anything like it,” Sellers again said to The State. “You have rivals who complain who go to the district. You have private investigators, hired by the district, and no one is talking to the parents. They come in with inconclusive reports and basically canceled the Ridge View’s season because Blythewood was upset and complained with no basis.”
Rosefield posted a statement on the Blazers athletic website late Monday.
“It’s widely known that recruiting at public high schools in South Carolina is not permitted. Some may wonder, “How does a school like Ridge View have so many talented student-athletes and coaches?” The answer is simple: We focus on growth. We focus on the growth of student-athletes. We focus on the growth of coaches and staff. We get better. We get better everyday. We love each other. We challenge each other. We communicate openly with each other. We are there for each other. Our culture, our environment and our love for each other is #NextLevel.”
“This past week has been extremely challenging for everyone at Ridge View, but it’s been especially challenging for our football players (and many of our other student-athletes). I cannot express in words how pleased I am at how they have handled these challenges, and I’ve told many of them that they are experiencing grown-up challenges as high school students. And they have handled these challenges beautifully. My hats off to you.”