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The week-long drama surrounding Goose Creek's playoff status, as well as Bluffton's, has finally come to a close.
Less than 24 hours after the school saw its disqualification upheld by the S.C. High School League for the second time in five days, Goose Creek officials said Tuesday afternoon that the Gators have exhausted all options through the legal system and will concede this year's playoff run.
Bluffton, meanwhile, can continue its preparations for Friday's 4-A Division II semifinal game against Northwestern without any outside distractions. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at District Three Stadium in Rock Hill.
"I feel bad for the kids, but I respect the high school league and their rulings," Bluffton head football coach Ken Cribb said.
Goose Creek was initially disqualified last Tuesday after the school learned it had used an ineligible player throughout the season. After hearing the Gators' first appeal a day later, the SCHSL upheld commissioner Jerome Singleton's ruling with a 9-2 vote and a 10-1 mercy vote.
But the Gators took matters to court and were ultimately awarded a home game against Bluffton last Friday night, where they pulled out a 35-25 win. S.C. 9th District Circuit Court Judge Roger Young ruled that the league violated the Freedom of Information Act by closing the appeal hearing, effectively forcing them to rule on the Gators' disqualification again on Monday.
But the second ruling was much of the same. Goose Creek saw its appeal shot down by a 14-0 margin and 12-2 on the mercy plea, effectively ending its season. Principal Jimmy Huskey told reporters that the school would hold a press conference Tuesday afternoon, where he then announced that the Gators were throwing in the towel in regard to continuing this year's playoff hunt.
The Gators were 13-0 after beating Bluffton and climbed as high as No. 11 in the national rankings. Goose Creek was gunning for its second consecutive Class 4-A Division II title.