HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's like handing down the death penalty for a minor infraction. That's how attorneys for Kahuku High football players and parents describe the punishment the team suffered for having an ineligible player this season. On Monday, the lawyers will go to court to try to get the Red Raiders back into the state tournament.
The Hawaii High School Athletic Association, which runs the state football tournament, says any delay in the games would be financially devastating.
Donning their school's colors, Kahuku football players, parents and supporters filled a Downtown Honolulu courtyard Sunday. The Oahu Interscholastic Association ruled last week that the undefeated and nationally-ranked Red Raiders would have to forfeit their games and sit out the upcoming state tourney for having a fifth-year senior on the squad this season.
The team's lawyers argue that any failure to identify that reserve player as ineligible was the result of a clerical mistake, so the rest of the student-athletes should not have to suffer such a stiff punishment.
"We're not here to encourage people to use ineligible players on the field in games or to take advantage of situations, competitive situations, unfairly," Eric Seitz, attorney for Kahuku players, said. "We're here in an effort to try and get a reasonable solution to what amounts to a clerical error."
The HHSAA says while it feels for the Kahuku families, a tournament delay could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
"There's airline. There's hotel, venue sites, rent," Christopher Chun, HHSAA executive director, said. "We even, on the football stadium on Kauai, we had to go to court to get a special permit to hold the game on that date at that time. So there's a lot of arrangements that would be hard to take back at this point."
The HHSAA says it's obligated to take the three teams the OIA provides.
"We don't have any choice in what schools we can pick," Chun said.
The case has drawn interest outside the Kahuku community. There were even signs of support for the Red Raiders at the University of Hawaii's football game in Boise, Idaho Saturday.
The attorneys for the Kahuku players say they will ask for an immediate hearing on their request for an injunction, and hope to receive a judge's ruling by Monday afternoon.