One day before the state tournament is set to get under way, the Prairie Seeds Academy is readying an appeal of their disqualification from the competition over an ineligible player.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota State High School League ruled that the team would forfeit its semi-final victory against Totino-Grace, along with all honors associated with the game. Officials began reviewing the match after a brawl broke out on the field, leading to 10 suspensions between both schools and other penalties for the players involved.
Yet, it wasn't the brawl that got one of the state's best soccer teams bumped. During the investigation, officials found the school had never completed online transfer forms for a student who had been playing all year. Under the league bylaws, that means the player was ineligible to be on the team.
Choua Yang told FOX 9 News the school is now in the process of seeking a court injunction to block the league's ruling, but Prairie Seeds Academy will have to act fast because the first round of the Class 1A state tournament kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
Before the disqualification, Prairie Seeds was planning to play Duluth Marshall in Roseville. Their coach told the Duluth Tribune the team is in a holding pattern right now, unsure whether they will play or not.
The school's CEO told FOX 9 News that the on-field fight started after Totino-Grace players provoked members of the Prairie Seeds team by using racial slurs. On Thursday night, Totino-Grace officials denied those allegations in a statement, which can be read in full below.
Totino-Grace High School appreciates the patience and understanding of our community while waiting for the results of the Minnesota State High School League's investigation of the altercation following the Section 5A championship soccer match between the Eagles and Prairie Seeds Academy.
During this time, school administrators worked closely with all members of the boys' soccer team to address questions and concerns related to the incident. Our school emphasizes the safety of the students in our care as one of our top priorities. Totino-Grace echoes the sentiments from the Minnesota State High School League, "Such behavior is not condoned and should never be a part of any high school game or school activity." As a community, we do not condone any violence or violent act or any circumstances that would instigate or perpetuate violence.
We were surprised to learn that acting to stop the fight is a sanctioned penalty. We are disappointed but we respect the Minnesota State High School League.
At Totino-Grace we embrace a community that is academically, economically and culturally diverse. It is unfortunate that initial media reports included unsupported allegations that members of the Totino-Grace team made derogatory remarks during the section championship game. Neither the Minnesota State High School League, nor the opposing team, has provided Totino-Grace with evidence to support these accusations. We stand by our students and dispute any allegations of this nature.
In response, Totino-Grace addressed the student body to revisit sportsmanship standards and the expectations we have for our community, emphasizing respect for game officials, players and fans of opposing schools, and Totino-Grace athletes. We will continue to strive for excellence both on and off the playing field and we will rely on our staff, students, coaches, parents and fans to model behavior that supports our mission and values.
We are disappointed that the Minnesota State High School League has determined that our team will not be permitted to replace the disqualified team and respectfully disagree with their decision.
We continue to be proud of all of our students and look forward to the opportunity to learn and grow from the experiences we face as students, teachers, parents and members of the Totino-Grace community.