The Bellingham High School football team's season is not over.
Archbishop Murphy, the team that beat Bellingham 28-6 last Saturday in a Class 2A Northwest District state play-in game, was forced to forfeit the game for using an ineligible player.
Bellingham, which thought its season had ended with the loss, will now likely make its first trip to the state playoffs since 1987 when it plays Mark Morris at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Everett Memorial Stadium, Bellingham athletic director Brian Smith said in a phone interview. Mark Morris, which is also making its first trip to state since 1987, was originally scheduled to face Archbishop Murphy on Saturday.
According to a story in the Everett Herald, Archbishop Murphy self-reported the violation to the Cascade Conference. The conference followed guidelines and ordered the Wildcats to forfeit the game. That ruling was upheld by the WIAA's Northwest District board.
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Archbishop Murphy appealed to the WIAA, which also upheld the ruling on Friday afternoon, Smith said.
"From what I have been told, Archbishop Murphy plans to take it to court," Smith said in a phone interview. "Based on past experience, the Snohomish County courts could have the final say."
Considering the WIAA ruling did not come until 3:30 p.m. Friday and government offices are expected to be closed Monday because of Veteran's Day, Bellingham may not know for sure whether it is in the playoffs until just before gametime Tuesday.
"At this time, we're preparing to play," Smith said. "I have a group of kids whose hopes are really high right now. Unfortunately in the stystem we work in today, the courts may decide it. But we're going to prepare for the game and hope for the best."
Smith said he did not have any detail about the nature of Archbishop Murphy's rule infraction.
"In some ways, I feel terrible for them," Smith said. "Part of me, obviously is excited for our kids, but you realize it can happen to anybody. That's why it's so important to cover all your basis and make sure you know what kids you're putting on the field."