The Lewiston High School Blue Devils learned a painful lesson in honesty last week.

Several days after Lewiston bested Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School 32-7, the school’s athletic director, Paul Amnott, discovered that one of the players on the Lewiston roster was academically ineligible to play and should not have been on the field during that game.

Maine Principals Association rules require teams to forfeit if any academically ineligible player participates in any game for any amount of time.

So Lewiston, in a true gesture of sportsmanship, reported the oversight and forfeited the game.

Lewiston’s head coach had been given a list of ineligible players 10 days before the game. The ineligible player is one of Lewiston’s JV regulars and, along with a number of other JV players, dressed for the game and was put in for several plays near the end of the game when it was clear that Lewiston would take home the win. Coaches regularly call JV athletes up to give younger, less experienced players an opportunity to play at the varsity level. It’s good practice.

Coach Bill County didn’t play the ineligible athlete knowingly and, once he learned the player was ineligible, he took responsibility for the mistake even though it cost the team standing in the playoff lineup.

Lewiston had been nearly assured a No. 1 or 2 spot in the standings before the forfeit if they took control of the Edward Little game last Friday. The forfeit, and then a loss against EL, dropped Lewiston in the ranking.

It also meant the team lost the opportunity to host its first playoff game at home.

Saturday Lewiston, now ranked sixth, will play Mount Blue away.

The Blue Devils will have a tougher time clawing their way through the playoff schedule because they will be pitted against more talented teams than they might have been had their ranking been more favorable. It will be work for them to proceed, but their honest labor will be rewarded. The reward may not be evident on the scoreboard, but it will surface in character.

Football, like other things in life, is a contest of will played in increments. Teams need talent, but they also need determination. Much of the talent will eventually fade. It will be the lessons in determination that linger with these players long after they graduate from high school.

This team, one of talent and determination, is also one of honor.

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