Paul VI Catholic's final appeal to avoid forfeiting its season-opening 28-13 football victory over Good Counsel on Aug. 27 was denied Wednesday by the principals of schools in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.

In a statement released yesterday, the WCAC announced that Paul VI was forfeiting the victory for using an ineligible player, ending a seven-week process that was at times contentious. The player was a transfer who had practiced for nearly three weeks before enrolling at the Fairfax private school.

"I'm sad for the kids," Paul VI Coach Wade Keel said yesterday afternoon, hours before his team's game at No. 6 Fairfax. "Our kids worked hard. I think it is unjust. That's their ruling. There's not much else I can do about it."

After playing a substantial role in the victory over Good Counsel, the player in question subsequently transferred to an alternative school in Arlington County.

In its statement, the WCAC announced that the conference's principals met on Wednesday and upheld previous rulings by WCAC Commissioner Bob Hardage and later an advisory committee that forced Paul VI to forfeit. According to a source familiar with the proceedings, the principals voted by secret ballot and left the meeting without totaling the results.

Paul VI learned it had lost its appeal on Thursday, Keel said.

The forfeit dropped Paul VI's record to 6-3-1 overall and 3-2-1 in the conference. With a victory over O'Connell in its regular season finale on Nov. 5, Paul VI probably would finish third in the conference and play No. 11 Gonzaga in the first round of the WCAC's four-team playoffs -- the same matchup that probably would have taken place without the forfeit.

Good Counsel stands to benefit the most from the forfeit. Its record in conference play is now 3-2, one game ahead of McNamara and Carroll for the fourth and final playoff berth.