Huntingtown rolled past McDonough on Saturday, but the Hurricanes finished Week 2 of the 2013 season with a significant dent to their 2012 campaign.
Calvert County Supervisor of Athletics Kevin Hook stripped Huntingtown of its 2012 Southern Maryland Athletic Conference co-championship late last month, when an investigation revealed that the Hurricanes used an ineligible player in 10 of 14 games last fall.
An appeal to reverse the decision forcing the Hurricanes to forfeit five wins from last season was denied by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association Thursday, forcing the No. 19 Hurricanes (2-0) to vacate the conference title they shared with with McDonough.
An investigation that began in April confirmed that senior running back Arnez Bowens was playing for the school while living outside of Calvert County.
The student and the school formally appealed the decision early last week and an appeals committee decided to uphold the ruling Thursday. MPSSAA rules will suspend the player from participating in Maryland athletics for 60 days.
School personnel knew there were issues with the Bowens’s residency and held him out for four games last season before his mother could provide the proper documentation.
“It tarnishes the program’s name and my name,” Coach Brendan Galligan said before the appeal. “But we did everything we could. We value honesty and we made the decision we thought was best.”
The school cleared Bowens to participate after his mother presented a signed lease. His mother and two siblings were living in Prince George’s County during the 2012 football season, Hook said.
“It’s an interesting situation, to be honest,” Hook said. “After the mother had turned in a lease our records showed everything should have been fine, but that doesn’t mean he was actually living there. The school did everything they were supposed to.”
Galligan said the player had been enrolled in Calvert County Public schools for several years, and the school’s appeal centered on the fact that Huntingtown had followed procedure and held Bowens out of games until the proper paperwork was filed and he was cleared to play.
It wasn’t until after the season that Bowens’s residency issues were brought to attention, Galligan said. The first-year starter became a major contributor to the Hurricanes with 1,369 yards and 16 touchdowns in 10 games, including 115 yards and two touchdowns in an 18-14 loss to No. 9 River Hill in the 3A state final.
Bowens is now living in the Huntingtown school district and will rejoin the team in Week 5. He is looking to play in college, Galligan said, perhaps at a Football Championship Subdivision school.
“This is his opportunity to do something at the next level,” Galligan said. “His opportunity to go to college is through athletics.”
The last time a similar situation occurred in the SMAC it involved Patuxent and the committee ruled the initial punishment was not strict enough after an appeals process, Hook said. The Panthers were eventually forced to forfeit the two wins.
Huntingtown’s 2012 season included a 3A South region title. The Hurricanes’ previous SMAC record — 7-1 — was tied with McDonough’s to earn the Calvert County school its second consecutive SMAC title.
The forfeits stripped the Hurricanes of a 42-35 win against Patuxent on Oct. 12 of last season. Bowens contributed 243 yards and a touchdown during that game.
As a result, Patuxent’s league record improves to 7-1, giving the Panthers a share of their second consecutive SMAC title. Patuxent and Huntingtown shared the title in 2011.
Patuxent Coach Steve Crounse acknowledged that this is not the way a team wants to win a title, but declined to speak specifically about the ruling.
The Hurricanes opened the season with a 34-27 overtime win against Northern and beat McDonough at home Saturday, 28-17. Galligan said he is prepared to adjust his roster to make up for the loss of Bowens over the next few weeks. Tailback Deshawn Freeland, quarterback Robbie Payne and wide receiver Bryson Curtis have all stepped up on offense for the Hurricanes.
“We’ve addressed it, that’s 2012 and now we’re getting ready to move on to 2013,” Galligan said. “We’ll play with who we’ve got. It’s done and we’re moving on and ready to go for the next week.”