ELHAM -- Pelham football coach Jim Morrell takes full blame for costing his team two victories, including one in Region 1-A, because of a clerical error on his part.
Pelham has been forced to forfeit its opening-night win against Baconton Charter and last week's win against Stewart County in the Region 1-A opener because the Hornets used an ineligible player.
Morrell contacted the GHSA on Tuesday and told the state's high school organization about the ineligible player, a backup who barely played, and then met with his team and told them they had to forfeit the two victories.
"I didn't know (he was ineligible). I discovered it on a recheck of eligibility,'' Morrell said. "We go back an check all our players after the initial filing. It was a mistake on my part. I filed him wrong. He was a transfer student last year, but he didn't play. When we filed him initially this year, I put him down as a junior instead of a senior. When he came in last year I thought he (was a sophomore). Then when I rechecked the eligibility I found out he didn't have enough credits to be a senior.''
Morrell called the GHSA immediately and self-reported the violation.
"When I realized it, I called the GHSA and told them,'' Morrell said. "It was my fault. I take the full blame for it. He actually has enough credits to be on track to graduate at Pelham High School, but not enough to be on track for the GHSA.''
The player in question, who Morrell didn't name, wasn't a starter and only appeared briefly in Pelham's two victories.
"He played one play the other night (in a 37-18 win against Stewart County) and was in on a few plays in Baconton Charter game,'' Morrell said.
The ruling means Baconton Charter, which is playing its first season of varsity football, gets the first win in school history.
It means Pelham (0-4) has to regroup, and Morrell has already started the process.
"I met with my team and met with the parents to tell them what had happened,'' Morrell said. "I took something away from them, and I've asked the team to rally around me. I take the full blame. I realized it was a mistake.
"Nobody else did. We are always teaching (the kids) about integrity, and I hope this is a lesson in integrity. It's a tough lesson, but a lot of lessons in life are tough lessons.''
The ruling costs Pelham one game in the Region 1-A, but Morrell's team, which is home tonight against unbeaten Randolph-Clay, has time to come back and still make the playoffs.
The Hornets have six games left on their seven-game region schedule. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.
"If we take care of business and do what we're supposed to do we can still make the playoffs,'' Morrell said. "We consider this to be a new season.''