Prolific Chatfield Senior High quarterback Sam Backer will not be allowed to play in the state championship game Friday afternoon, after a judge upheld his one-game suspension.
Backer's parents sued the Minnesota State High School League earlier this, arguing his automatic one-game suspension — the result of the junior picking up two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in last week's semifinal game — was unconstitutional.
The referees called two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Backer during last week's semifinal, one in the second quarter and one in the third. But Backer "disagrees" with the conclusions, saying he was not the instigator, according to the lawsuit. With regard to the second call, Backer's actions (which aren't described in the lawsuit) "were a reaction to the twisting of his ankle to protect his own safety."
They also took issue with the lack of an after-the-fact or in-game appeals process.
They'd asked the courts to issue an injunction that would have allowed Backer to play in the Class AA title game against West Central Area/Ashby, set for 1 p.m. Friday.
But Judge Ann D. Montgomery, in an order issued just hours before kickoff, denied the family's motion for a temporary restraining order — meaning Backer's suspension remains in place, and he will not be allowed to play in the championship.
In looking at the totality of the case, Montgomery said the factors ultimately weigh against Backer. His ejection and suspension do not deny him the right to participate in interscholastic athletics, as he can still "remain on the football team" and "engage in school activities." He just can't play in this one game, she wrote.
The plaintiffs' argument that Backer wasn't afforded due process because there is no way to appeal the unsportsmanlike conduct calls also fell short for Montgomery, who said plays that are reviewable during the tournament games "involve objective criteria, not a subjective judgment call which is implicit in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty."
She later writes:
"Requiring the MSHSL to engage in an evidentiary hearing whenever a student-athlete is ejected would impose a significant and unreasonable burden given the volume of competitions and decisions by contest officials each year."
Ultimately, this means the Chatfield Gophers will take on West Central Area/Ashby at 1 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium without Backer, with the state title at stake.