GHSA forces Savannah, Cross Creek to forfeit games after fight

In a rare move, the Georgia High School Association has forced two football teams to forfeit their game this week because of a fight among their players.

Cross Creek, an Augusta school, beat Savannah 28-0 in the Friday game that was called in the third quarter. It was played in Savannah.

Chatham-Savannah Schools acknowledged that one Savannah player was taken to a local hospital. Savannah coach Bud Tolliver told a local newspaper that one of his assistant coaches was hospitalized overnight for a head injury caused by a Cross Creek player swinging his helmet.

Cross Creek was scheduled to play at Hart County this week while Savannah was slated to play a GIAA school, Bulloch Academy.

“The game was called in the third quarter, and there was a multi-player fight, and except for about three kids, everybody entered the field, which is cause for ejection,” GHSA executive director Robin Hines said. “If we’d gone player by player (enforcing the mandatory one-game future sit-out penalty for all those ejected), there wouldn’t be enough players to play for either team.”

But Hines made it clear that the forfeits aren’t the result of a player shortage. It was a GHSA sanction that is unusual if not unprecedented for two teams.

“There’s no place in high school athletics for what happened Friday,” Hines said.

Hines did not rule out that coaches might face further sanctions or suspensions. The schools were fined an unspecified amount, Hines said. Fines up to $1,000 can be assessed for multi-player fights or for athletes entering a field of play during fights.

Also unusual is that the GHSA is allowing Hart County to play another game, against Bulloch Academy, to salvage Hart’s homecoming. But the Hart-Bulloch game won’t count in GHSA records, making it essentially an in-season exhibition, though the GHSA isn’t calling it that.

“It’s a precedent for this state, but it has occurred in other states,” said GHSA associate director Jay Russell, who coordinates football. “We sought counsel and thought it made sense in this case.”

Bulloch Academy is a Georgia Independent Athletic Association team and not subject to GHSA rules.

Savannah’s record is now 0-6. Cross Creek’s is 2-2. They are not in the same region, so it will have no effect on the playoffs except that some regions use out-of-region results in standings tiebreakers.

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