TWINSBURG — The addition of a 12th soccer player by Strongsville in the girl’s state semifinal game against Twinsburg earlier this month is being called a deliberate move by the Mustangs, in a formal complaint filed Nov. 27 by the Twinsburg City School District with the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The complaint alleges improper conduct and an intentional violation of OHSAA bylaws by the Strongsville soccer team in Strongsville’s 1-0 state semifinal victory over Twinsburg Nov. 6.
Calling the Strongsville team’s actions in playing 12 players (11 are allowed) for a 6 minute and 20 second stretch in the second half a "strategy and not a mistake," the complaint cites a similar allegation made against the Strongsville team in the 2017-18 season by the Medina City School District.
Strongsville school officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
According to the complaint, the Strongsville coach had three opportunities to pull the extra player — which Twinsburg alleges was substituted into the game without a necessary "pinny" and without reporting to the referee — from the field during the game, but failed do so until Twinsburg subbed in its own player.
The complaint alleges that during this "distraction" of common shift changes, the Strongsville team subbed out two players and only substituted in one player.
"Although one would like to believe that Strongsville’s use of 12 players for a substantial part of the game was an innocent mistake, the circumstances of the Nov. 6, 2018 match, and the fact that at least one other team has come forward to report that Strongsville used 12 players in a game, suggests that Strongsville’s use of 12 players was a strategy, not a mistake," the complaint states.
"The failure by Strongsville’s coaches to report their violation of the rules to the referees and OHSAA suggests that they hoped that no one would notice that Strongsville had played 12 players," the complaint states.
Strongsville would go on to lose the state championship against Beavercreek in a 4-2 game Nov. 9.
In addition, the complaint filed by Twinsburg states that OHSAA’s bylaws prevent justifiable recourse by school districts in such cases, as the OHSAA employs "collective punishment" against schools pursuing legal remedies, "improperly penalizing student athletes and preventing a school board from pursuing its legal rights."
Had the Twinsburg district filed an injunction in the matter, according to Twinsburg school officials, the OHSAA could have stripped the Twinsburg team of its regional and district titles form this year.
"OHSAA bylaw ... states that if ... a court ultimately determines that the injunctive relief sought is not justified, OHSAA may impose certain consequences not only on the member board, but also on the board’s student athletes," the complaint states. "Sanctions ... include requiring the individual or team records and performances of the member’s team be vacated or stricken, requiring that team victories be forfeited, and requiring that team or individual awards be returned to AHSAA."
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, email@example.com, or @AprilKHelms_RPC