A prank born out of tradition went awry this week for the Severna Park field hockey team, and the consequences will cost the second-ranked Falcons their spot in the Maryland 4A state semifinals.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto ruled Friday that Severna Park, the Maryland 4A East region champions, must forfeit its place in the state semifinals following the suspension of all 24 players and three coaches.
Severna Park was set to face Churchill on Monday. Instead, defending 4A champion South River, which lost to the Falcons in the region final, will advance.
Severna Park administrators investigated a string of incidents that occurred late Wednesday night and into early Thursday morning, according to a news release from the school district.
Falcons players traditionally throw toilet paper on Coach Ann Andrews's house if they win the region championship, a lighthearted prank that Andrews said she looks forward to every season because it's a sign of the team's success. Severna Park is a perennial field hockey power.
But Wednesday night, during a team sleepover, players hit Andrews house and moved on to several friends' homes.
"They may have gotten some of the houses wrong," Andrews said.
Patrick Bathras, Severna Park's principal, suspended the entire roster and three coaches one game. Arlotto ruled instead to pull the team from the playoffs altogether.
Andrews said this will be the last year of the post-victory high jinks. Though the prank may have gotten out of hand, the coach said the players did not act with any malice.
"They are amazing women," she said. "They got out of hand and made some bad decisions. That doesn't make them bad people. They're upset they forfeited the game, but they're more sad they let some people down."
"While I realize that this is a very disappointing end to what has been a great season for Severna Park, the actions of players and coaches in this matter do not reflect the values we must have for our school system and our athletic programs," Arlotto said in a statement from the county. "Our student-athletes should be ambassadors for themselves and their schools in our communities."
Severna Park defeated South River, 4-1, on Wednesday, but the game is now considered a forfeit, according to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.
The Falcons posted a 13-2 record. They previously defeated South River (10-6) in the regular season, 2-0.
South River Athletic Director Dave Klingel informed his team they were returning to the state tournament in a meeting at school Friday afternoon. The Seahawks had mostly disbanded after the loss earlier in the week and had begun making offseason plans, Coach Megan Atkinson said.
One senior had her wisdom teeth pulled Friday, the earliest day she could schedule the procedure after the season ended. Now South River has three days to prepare to keep its season alive — again.
"It's surreal," Atkinson said. "We're excited to get back out there and defend our title and have an opportunity to play again. I've never heard of this happening before."