Davis Whitfield, the commissioner of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, last week praised Pikeville Ayock and North Lenoir for their display of sportsmanship following Aycock’s 28-26 overtime football victory.
The Falcons denied North Lenoir its first conference win since 2006 with an unintentional two-point conversion.
The Aycock players momentarily celebrated but quickly, in groups of two or three or alone, moved to console the North Lenoir players, hugging them, encouraging them and helping them through the customary post-game handshakes. And in many cases, a quick prayer.
“It was a wonderful display of what we are all about,” Whitfield told area principals, superintendents and athletic directors during last week’s NCHSAA regional meeting at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium.
Aycock coach Randy Pinkowski said his players acted like he would expect them to act.
“They know our expectations,” Pinkowski said. “Our guys know they are expected to exemplify the values of themselves, their coaches, the school and the community.”
Ayock exemplified sportsmanship, the first of the eight values the NCHSAA has identified as a core belief.
Almost all of the high school football games this season have been conducted in a manner reflecting the moral ground the NCHSAA has enumerated, but the exceptions are notable.
Fairmont already is ineligible for the playoffs after having three players ejected in a 28-20 loss to Lake View, S.C. Fairmont had another player ejected the next week, and coach James Atkinson was ejected last week.
Indian Trail Porter Ridge also has had four players ejected but is eligible for the playoffs because game officials said a brief altercation was not a fight. Three players left the Porter Ridge bench, but the initial confrontation was not reported as a fight by game officials, according to the NCHSAA.
Leaving the bench resulted in ejections for the three, but leaving the bench to participate in a fight would have made the team ineligible.
Last Friday, Hayesville and Swain County also narrowly avoided losing their playoff eligibility after a fight in Swain’s 38-7 win. The game was stopped with 3:39 left because of safety concerns.
The Southwestern Officials Association told the Asheville Citizen-Times that two players from each team were ejected for fighting. Hayesville also had one player ejected for taunting and baiting and a fourth player ejected for flagrant contact, according to the Citizen-Times.
Any school that has three or more players ejected for fighting in a game is ineligible for the playoffs. Any school that has six players ejected for any reason during the season is ineligible for the playoffs.