Friday night, Anson County High School’s football team beat Marshville Forest Hills 28-7, won the Rocky RIver conference title - and then everybody cried.
In what should’ve been a celebratory post-game huddle, the Bearcats talked about the season being over.
Before the game, Jackson broke the news to the team that, despite qualifying for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, Anson County would not be eligible to participate.
“It was heartbreaking,” Jackson said. “And after the game was more heartbreaking than anything I’ve been a part of. They played honorably and hard, from my perspective. It was just tough.”
Jackson told the Observer that five players on his team were suspended for fighting during a 33-0 loss to arch rival Richmond Senior on Aug. 30.
The NCHSAA determined that Richmond would still be eligible for the postseason after reviewing film. But it said Anson would not.
NCHSAA rules say if a team has three or more player suspensions in a season, it will lose playoff eligibility.
So Anson County will not play in the postseason despite its 7-3 overall record. The Bearcats, a class 2A school, did not lose to another 2A school all year.
A NCHSAA spokesperson told the Observer that Anson was notified of the ruling in September. Jackson said he didn’t tell the team earlier because he was worried about losing his players to influences outside of school and football.
“I’ve been giving them tidbits all season,” Jackson said, “and trying to keep them focused on (school and football) and not doing anything else crazy. These kids here, some of them really know the streets. But it’s like we told them (Friday) night. It’s a learning experience for everybody involved. It hurt, and like I told the guys (Friday) night, teaching moments are not always meant to feel good. Sometimes it has to hurt.”