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Cook High wins appeal of GHSA football penalties

Cook County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tim Dixon has confirmed that Cook High School won their appeal of the GHSA (Georgia High School Association) decision to make the Hornets football team forfeit five games this season, pay a $750 fine, and have a student declared ineligible to play.

During a hearing before the GHSA Board of Trustees on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 31, 2023, in Thomaston, Patrick Brooks, attorney for the Cook County School System, presented an appeal of the football eligibility ruling and subsequent penalties.

GHSA Board of Trustees Member Kevin Petroski made a motion, seconded by GHSA Board Member Steve Simpson, to uphold a fine of $250 to the school for failing to file eligibility on the student before letting him participate in Spring Football practice. The motion passed unanimously.

Next, Board Member Steven Craft made a motion, seconded by GHSA Board of Trustees President Jim Finch, to deny the school’s appeal of the remaining penalties. 

The motion to deny failed 3-8. Craft, Board Member Jasper Jewell, and Finch voted yes; Board Member Kelli Smith recused herself. The remaining Board Members present, Kirk Barton (sub), Jeff Battles, Brian Montgomery, Steve Simpson, Jose Fernandez, Michelle Masters, Kevin Petroski, and Curt Miller, voted in opposition to the motion for denying Cook High’s appeal. (Twelve Board Members were present, and two were absent.)

Thus, the outcome of the GHSA appeal means that the Hornets will retain their Region 1-AA Championship, keep a 7-2 win/loss record (now 8-2 after last week’s victory over Worth), and host the first round of the AA State Playoffs this Saturday, Nov. 11, vs. Washington County. The student-athlete who was in question, Kyree Fuller, #3, remains eligible to play.

At last report, a temporary restraining order entered by Alapaha Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Clayton Tomlinson was still in effect. The order prevents GHSA from taking away the five football wins, allows #3 to play, prevents the payment of any fines to GHSA, and removes Cook County warning status from GHSA.

In his ruling, Judge Tomlinson said the GHSA previously issued a decision on Aug. 8, 2023, that Kyree was eligible to play varsity sports for Cook County. Judge Tomlinson noted that the GHSA “White Book” of rules states it could be considered whether or not “undue influence” played a role in Kyree’s transfer from Lowndes High, and the White Book does not allow imposition of retroactive penalties pursuant to that rule where GHSA has previously declared a student eligible.

The Hornets stepped up at a recent football game by defeating the Fitzgerald Purple Hurricanes 14-7. Cook has now received the trophy for Region 1-AA Champions.

According to Georgia High School Football Daily, Cook hasn’t missed the playoffs since 2000. Only a few schools have longer playoff streaks, including Marist, Peach County, Eagle’s Landing Christian, and Buford. 

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