T.J. Peeler, Broad Run get cause to rejoice: Star is cleared to play in postseason opener
Broad Run running back T.J. Peeler's one-game suspension was overturned and the senior was reinstated by the Virginia High School League on Thursday following an appeal by the school.
One of the top running backs in the D.C. area, Peeler was suspended after receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties early in the first quarter of the third-ranked Spartans' 47-7 win over Potomac Falls.
The appeal was upheld following a joint decision involving the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association and the principals of Broad Run and Potomac Falls, the Spartans' opponent last Friday night.
Speaking for the first time about the suspension, Peeler said he was "just happy that I get to play" in the playoff opener.
"Definitely you just want to move forward," Peeler said. "Forget about it, put it in the past and just play the game you've got next."
In accordance with VHSL rules, Peeler was ejected from the game for receiving the two penalties and was suspended for the Spartans' next game, a Virginia AA Region II semifinal on Nov. 20.
After scoring on a 63-yard touchdown run, Peeler, who has orally committed to play for Pittsburgh, was flagged for chest-bumping a teammate in the back of the end zone. During the run, Peeler also raised his finger for 10 yards, signaling "No. 1," and clapped the football twice after scoring.
Peeler's first penalty was called minutes earlier for a chest-bump on the Broad Run sideline after a teammate scored on a two-point conversion.
"After reviewing everything and talking with the crew, basically our association has a [standard] what we're going to call excessive celebration," said Dennis Hall, commissioner of the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association. Hall said the celebration that warranted the second penalty "was excessive and [had] taunting, but the first one was not that excessive, it was just an excitement type thing."
The calls underscored a renewed emphasis on excessive celebration calls by officials. Area coaches questioned whether some seemingly innocuous celebrations, such as chest-bumps or pointing up at the sky, should fall under those restrictions.
Broad Run, the defending Virginia AA Division 4 champion, appealed the penalties on the grounds that the two chest-bumps were not excessive and did not taunt the opposing team, nor involved an extended individual action.
Spartans Coach Mike Burnett said the program has always emphasized celebrating together and to not antagonize the opposition.
"The most interesting question is what is learned from this," Burnett said. "We still will stand by what we think is right for our kids, which is that we want to celebrate life with each other and we want to celebrate the moment and never be demeaning of another player. Certainly what we'll learn is we'll re-evaluate whether we can be interpreted as doing that. . . . In the end, we support our kids and that's why I'm so happy they came to the result they did."
Peeler, who is third in the area with 1,616 yards and 18 touchdowns on 179 carries, said the incident probably will remain in the back of his mind when he plays next -- and definitely will impact the way he celebrates.
"I'll probably just not do any chest-bumps," Peeler said. "Probably just do a thumbs-up or something like that. I don't know, that's what my coaches told me to do. Thumbs-up sounds better anyways."