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Bulldogs still out of playoffs after SCHSL appeal
Second hearing set for Monday
Jimmy Neal
Camden High School (CHS) Head Football Coach Jimmy Neal, shown here during a recent Bulldog football game, presented CHS appeal Thursday afternoon, along with CHS Principal Dan Matthews, a Kershaw County School District (KCSD) attorney and KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan. - photo by C-I file photo


No trick. No treat.

Camden High School (CHS) football team’s 2014 season may come to a close tonight, regardless of what happens in their game at Chapin, after the S.C. High School League’s (SCHSL) executive committee upheld the team’s 2014 playoff and 2015 jamboree ban following an appeal heard Thursday afternoon’s at the SCHSL office in Columbia.

The executive committee voted 10-4 to uphold the ban. It also denied CHS and the Kershaw County School District’s (KCSD) request to close the appeals hearing to the public.

CHS and the district will appeal Thursday’s decision before the SCHSL’s appellate committee, made up of government officials. According to KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd, Monday’s hearing -- set for 10 a.m. -- will mark the first time the appellate committee has ever met.

A KCSD press release announcing Monday’s hearing included links to several videos of the post-game incident and plays made during the game.

KCSD Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan, KCSD attorney Mike Montgomery, CHS Principal Dan Matthews and CHS Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Jimmy Neal presented their appeal on behalf of the school to the executive committee. Camden’s appeal took just under one hour to present, and included questions from executive committee members directed at Neal and Matthews. It also included a video presentation of the post-game fracas along with snippets of game film involving players.

On Oct. 23, the SCHSL ruled CHS and Dreher High School ineligible to compete in this year’s AAA state football playoffs or any jamborees leading into the 2015 season. The league did so after completing its investigation of an Oct. 17 post-game incident involving the Bulldogs and Dreher Blue Devils following CHS’ 39-30 victory at Zemp Stadium. The SCHSL’s playoff and 2015 jamboree ban came one day after CHS and Dreher suspended players involved in the fight. After the Oct. 23 decision, CHS and Morgan said they would appeal SCHSL Commissioner Jerome Singleton’s ruling.

During Thursday’s appeal, the executive committee asked Neal about what he told players immediately after and in the days following the Oct. 17 fight. Neal said he told players to take responsibility for their actions and that this is “not the way we do things,” something repeated several times during the presentation. He said he also warned players that some of them would be suspended.

The committee asked Matthews if he was satisfied that all the players involved had been identified and penalized. Matthews said he was, stating the school initially identified six players for suspension, but after meeting with SCHSL Asst. Commissioner Skip Lax, that number grew to 11.

Committee members also asked questions of Singleton, including why the entire team was being penalized when only 11 of 61 players were identified as being involved in the fight. Singleton said such things are taken on a case-by-case basis.

Neal, Matthews and Montgomery were not available for comment following the SCHSL’s decision. Morgan, however, held a press conference shortly after the vote.

“I felt very strongly that we should make this appeal,” Morgan said. “I regret that the High School League’s executive committee chose not to honor our request for a lesser team penalty. We believe, very strongly, that the individuals involved in this altercation have been sanctioned by the school district and the league. We feel that’s appropriate and the right thing to do. We also believe that the fine was appropriate and we accept that.”

Morgan said, however, that CHS and the district differ with the committee and league, and believe a lesser team sanction could have been administered with the SCHSL’s rules.

“Probation is required, as they indicated, but there is a lesser probation which would still allow the Camden High School team and the Dreher High School team, for that matter, to participate in the playoffs. We think that would be appropriate for Camden High School, especially in light of Camden’s sterling record over the years and during Coach Neal’s tenure,” Morgan said.

About an hour after the Camden decision, the executive committee rendered its decision in a similar appeal by Dreher. The committee voted, 9-4, with one abstention, to uphold Dreher’s ban from the playoffs and 2015 jamborees. It was unclear at press time whether Dreher planned to appeal to the appellate committee.

Also Thursday, a Camden Police Department (CPD) official said the agency issued arrest warrants for two players -- one each from Camden and Dreher -- in connection with the Oct. 17 fight.

CPD Capt. Mike Stone named the students as CHS’ Orlando Zaquan Williams and Dreher’s Jeffrey Jordan Wider. Both are 17.

“Using video enhancement software, the (CPD) was able to identify the parties involved in two separate incidents consisting of assault on school officials,” Stone said.

He said Williams and Wider are charged with third-degree assault, a charge once referred to as simple assault. CHS Principal Matthews suffered a cut over and around his left eye during the melee. Stone said Matthews and another school official were assaulted while trying to break up “multiple fights” after the game.

CPD Chief Joe Floyd confirmed Thursday afternoon that Williams and Wider both turned themselves, were charged and released.

The Bulldogs will travel to meet Chapin tonight at 7:30 p.m. A Camden victory would give the Dogs a share of the Region 4-AAA championship with either Dreher or A.C. Flora with a 4-1 conference record.

(Editor Martin L. Cahn assisted with writing this story.)