West Springfield High School is in position to win the Virginia AAA Northern District football title and a berth in the region playoffs after being awarded a forfeit victory over Oakton yesterday, one of Cougars because of an ineligible player.
However, a cloud hangs over West Springfield as Coach Jim Jensen has been suspended for seven days by the school's principal, George Stepp, for placing a tape recorder in the locker room of visiting Lake Braddock before their game last Friday night.
Lake Braddock Coach Stan Kemp said he discovered the tape running several minutes after his team had begun talking about the game.
"It was a large reel-to-reel tape," Kemp said. "I couldn't believe it. We weren't really discussing strategy at the time and we were going to just erase everything. But if we did that, the evidence would be gone. I just turned it off and gave it to the West Springfield principal at halftime."
West Springfield Athletic Director Bill Abell said, "The incident ranked among the worst I have ever heard of in Northern Virginia and had this occurred in some other schools, Jensen might have been fired on the spot. t
"But George (Stepp) wants to be objective and fair. Even before the news of the forfeits, he had taken action and, obviously, action had to be taken immediately. According to the Virginia High School League rules, a violation of the sportsmanship code calls for disciplinary action to be taken by the principal. If we didn't, the league would take measures. Even now, they could take the issue further if they so desire."
Abell said Jensen would also be placed on probation and a determination would be made later as to his future coaching status.
Persons close to the situation said Jensen's intention was not to spy on Lake Braddock but to listen to Kemp's pregame talk to determine if the coach was trying to influence his players to use unfair tactics in the game.
"He (Jensen) called me Saturday and apologized," Kemp said. "He said he did it only out of frustration over situations involving the schools the past eight years. There have been some incidents and he said he was concerned."
An irate Kemp said, "A seven-day suspension was a very disappointing punishment for such an act.
"He's supposed to be role model for his kids and I'm sure he's convinced them he was right in doing that," said Kemp, whose team lost to the Spartans that night, 29-14. "And, it's ironic, they suddenly get a chance to go the playoffs."
West Springfield, the preseason district favorite, was upset by Oakton, 22-12, two weeks ago and that paved the way for W. T. Woodson to win a berth in the four-team Northern Region playoffs.
Woodson finished 5-1 in the district and is 8-1 overall, while West Springfield is 4-1 going into tonight's district game against Chantilly, and is 5-4 over-all. Had the teams tied for the district title, Woodson, on the basis of a better overall record and more points, would have gone to the playoffs.
As a result of the Oakton forfeit, West Springfield has a 5-0 district mark and a win over Chantilly will give it the district championship and a spot in the playoffs.
"Four days ago, we were in the playoffs and now we're not," said a disheartened Woodson coach, John Cox, whose team lost to West Springfield early in the season, 17-14. "I have no comment on that other situation (jensen's suspension). I'm worn out, tired and frustrated. All we can hope for now is a Chantilly win."
Oakton, the Great Falls District champion last year, moved into the Northern District this year.The Cougars, 3-2 and 5-4 overall following Friday night's loss to Chantilly, discovered that Tom Kress, a transfer student, was ineligible in accordance with the VHSL transfer rule.
"There was no skulduggery on the part of anyone. They just didn't catch it," said Lake Braddock Principal Tom Alwood, who is the chairman of the district's athletic committee. "When they found out, they reported it right away and had to forfeit five games."