The Holy Spirit High School football team won't finish 12-0 this season.
The Spartans will forfeit their season-opening 41-16 win over Oakcrest last Friday for using an academically ineligible player.
Spirit, No. 1 in The Press Elite 11, reported the violation to the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Cape-Atlantic League on Wednesday, according to Spirit athletic director Keith Gorman.
Both the CAL and the NJSIAA are expected to quickly review the matter and make the forfeit official.
Holy Spirit will be 0-1 and Oakcrest 1-0.
"Thank God we caught it after week one and not after week five," Gorman said. "The entire school, the administration is not happy about this."
Spirit won the state Non-Public III title and finished 12-0 last season. The Spartans returned several standouts and one of the biggest topics of the preseason was whether they were more talented this year than last.
"We're not going to get into the details about where the ball was dropped," Gorman said, "but we've taken action to make sure this doesn't happen again."
Gorman declined to name the ineligible player. He did say he was an offensive starter, who did not have enough academic credits to be eligible.
The player transferred to Holy Spirit this summer and did not play football at his previous school.
"I'm heartbroken for this kid and his family," Gorman said. "He's a good kid."
Gorman said he had an uneasy feeling about the player's eligibility after the Oakcrest game, so the school's administration rechecked the player's academic history.
"It was one of those (athletic director) moments," Gorman said. "I just said we need to check this kid again. I don't know where it came from. Nobody said anything to me about it. We did and thank God we did now instead of week six, and then we're out of the playoffs all together."
Both Holy Spirit and Oakcrest play at 7 p.m. Friday. Holy Spirit hosts Absegami (1-0). Meanwhile, Oakcrest plays at Millville (1-0).
The forfeit should not hurt Spirit's playoff hopes or its preparation for Absegami.
"Kids are resilient," Spirit coach Charles Roman said. "They came away with the feeling that we won on the field and that's what matters to us."
Meanwhile, the forfeit win will probably boost Oakcrest's chances of making the South Jersey Group III playoffs. Still, Oakcrest coach Chuck Smith called the forfeit an unfortunate incident.
"I only count the wins and losses on the field," Smith said. "I feel bad for Holy Spirit and the kids who played in that game. They beat us fair and square and that's how I look at it."
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