IRVINGTON, NJ – For Irvington High School, the football playoffs have turned into a yo-yo affair.
And the games haven’t even started yet.
On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association will rule on whether Wayne Hills is eligible for the playoffs.
Three days after being disqualified for allegedly using three ineligible players, who were all brothers, top seed Wayne Hills was given new life after State Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington declared that the disqualification and forfeiture of wins were pending following an NJSIAA hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
First, the Blue Knights were seeded No. 2 and Wayne Hills was seeded No. 1 in the state North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 playoffs, announced on Monday, Nov. 7. That meant Irvington would host seventh-seeded Randolph on Friday, Nov. 11.
Then, the next day, the NJSIAA declared Wayne Hills disqualified from the playoffs after allegedly using three ineligible players, the Hayek brothers – Tyler, Hunter and Jaaron. Thus, Irvingon was given the No. 1 seed, and the other teams likewise moved up a spot. In addition, Northern Highlands had moved up from the No. 9 spot to the No. 8 and final seed. The top eight teams in the power-points standings through the first eight games earned playoff berths.
As a result, Irvington was then to host No. 8 seed Northern Highlands on Friday, Nov. 11.
But two days later on Thursday, Nov. 10, Harrington granted Wayne Hills’ appeal.
So Irvington was back to the No. 2 seed and was to host seventh-seeded Randolph in the first round on Friday, Nov. 18, at 7 p.m.
But now the NJSIAA will decide on Tuesday, Nov. 15, on whether Wayne Hills would be reinstated into the playoffs.
All the first round games, which were scheduled to be played the weekend of Nov. 11-12, have been pushed back to the weekend of Nov. 18-19.
Northern Highlands will play Roxbury on Monday, Nov. 14, in what was thought to be a play-in game. But now that game is just a regular-season game.
If Wayne Hills is declared disqualified, then Roxbury is the No. 7 seed, and Irvington is the No. 1 seed and will host No. 8 seed Northern Highlands. If Wayne Hills is reinstated, then Roxbury is the No. 8 seed, and Irvington is the No. 2 seed and will host No. 7 seed Randolph, while Northern Highlands is out of the playoffs.
The semifinal games will be played the weekend of Thanksgiving.
This is the first time the Blue Knights are in Section 1. In previous years, they were in Section 2.
Moreover, the Blue Knights’ record, for the time being, has been changed from 9-0 to 8-1, with the one loss coming against Wayne Hills, 48-27, in their previous game on Friday, Nov. 4, at Wayne Hills. That game determined the inaugural North Jersey Super Football Conference-Freedom White Division championship. When Wayne Hills was ruled disqualified, its eight wins were all forfeited and Irvington was declared the division champions. However, according to a statement from Harrington, posted by northjersey.com, the forfeiture of any wins and the disqualification of Wayne Hills are “hereby stayed pending further proceedings before the NJSIAA whereby the student athletes are given an opportunity to present evidence concerning their residency status.”
When reached by phone on Friday, Nov. 11, IHS first-year head coach Ashley Pierre said he had no comment until he learned more about the ruling.
On Tuesday night, Nov. 8, Pierre mentioned how he would like to face Wayne Hills in the championship game, in a phone interview with The Irvington Herald. The lopsided loss to Wayne Hills was a bit misleading because it was more about Irvington hurting itself with mistakes, more than just Wayne Hills outplaying Irvington, Pierre noted.