OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A meaningless play in the closing seconds of a high school playoff game is the talk of Oklahoma, from the governor to the state Supreme Court.

In yet another sign that football reigns supreme in Oklahoma, the state’s highest court will rule next week whether a high school quarterback suspended for kicking an opposing player should be reinstated so he can play in the state semifinals.

Tucker Brown, the quarterback for Shawnee High School, was ejected from the Wolves’ Nov. 19 quarterfinal win over Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington after he kicked Jermaine Holmes with 19 seconds left in the game. As Brown was trying to kneel to run out the clock, Holmes jumped offside and pulled Brown to the ground by his helmet. Brown retaliated.

Brown’s mother challenged the ruling and a district judge overturned the quarterback’s suspension. After an appeal by the state’s high school activities association, the state’s highest court will decide when the playoffs – already delayed two weeks – can continue.

From home videos being shown on the 10 o’clock news and sports radio jocks talking about the incident, it has become a huge story throughout Oklahoma.

Gov. Brad Henry, a Shawnee graduate, was at the game that his alma mater won 14-10. Brown ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the second half to bring Shawnee back from a 10-0 halftime deficit, but his ejection triggered an automatic two-game suspension.

“My personal feeling is that the officials overreacted, that they should have probably given both teams a personal foul and not ejected any players,” said Henry, whose wife, Kim, formerly taught at Shawnee.

Brown’s attorney, Terry West, claims the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association isn’t abiding by its own rules. He claims the association’s fighting rule is worded in such a way that it applies only to playoff games if the player came off the bench to participate.

In this case, West says Brown – if he’s to be suspended at all – should be forced to sit out the first two games of his senior season next year. Brown is the son of team coach Billy Brown.

West also claims that OSSAA’s rules don’t allow for playoff games to be postponed indefinitely. Instead, schools must decide whether to let players participate if their eligibility is in question, at the risk of forfeiting later, West claims.

Mark Grossman, an attorney for the OSSAA, said the case all comes down to preventing fights from escalating.

“What we have here is simply a player that kicked an opposing player in the head while he was on the ground,” he said.

Two other schools are affected by the delay. The Wolves will play Tulsa East Central – with or without Brown – once the high court makes a decision. The game originally was scheduled for Nov. 26, but now won’t be played until at least Dec. 10. Bixby, from suburban Tulsa, advanced to the final with a win against Ardmore on Nov. 25. By the time the state title game is played, Bixby may have had a month layoff.

There is some precedent for the high court becoming involved in high school games, including a 1972 decision regarding the eligibility of a player who had transferred. West said there have been several other cases involving transfers, but he knows of none with circumstances similar to this one.

West has received letters from people in other states about the case.

“It’s some reflection of the enthusiasm for high school football in this part of the country,” he said.

Grossman said the fighting rule has been in place for many years and never has been challenged before.

Responding to West’s claim about the rule in playoff games, Grossman said a “regularly scheduled games” clause was inserted because coaches scheduled scrimmages against lesser opponents so a suspended player could return in time to face a regular foe.

He added that playoff games are scheduled three years in advance, with the only variable being which teams are participating.

Some 54 players were suspended for fighting this season, including a Mooreland player who missed the team’s second-round loss to Okeene after being ejected for fighting in the first game.

“They accepted the penalty and that player did not play in the next round of the playoffs,” Grossman said.

AP-ES-12-02-05 1538EST

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