Earle has forfeited the remainder of the Class 2A playoffs for use of an ineligible player.
The Crittenden County school notified the Arkansas Activities Association of the ineligible player, who participated during this football season for the Bulldogs, on Thursday.
"We are grateful to Earle High School for its integrity and honesty while dealing with a sensitive issue," AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor said in a news release. "The district self-reported what is considered a violation of AAA rules and took immediate action."
Salem, a No. 5 seed from the 3-2A Conference that lost 50-31 at Earle in last Friday's Class 2A quarterfinals, will take the Bulldogs' spot in the Class 2A playoffs.
With Earle's forfeit, the Class 2A semifinals have been pushed back one week to Dec. 8. Salem will travel to Foreman, while Camden Harmony Grove hosts Mount Ida.
The Class 2A state championship game was scheduled for Dec. 9, but will instead be played Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
This is the first nonweather reason for the AAA state football playoffs to be postponed since 2009. Lamar was ruled to have an ineligible player in 2009, but won its appeal with the AAA, forcing the 3A playoffs to be pushed back one week. The state championship game was played Dec. 18, a week before Christmas, at the University of Central Arkansas' Estes Stadium in Conway, which hosted the game because of press box construction at War Memorial Stadium that year.
The sudden end to Earle's 2017 season means the closure of quarterback Gerry Bohanon's career with the Bulldogs. Bohanon, who has been offered scholarships by the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State, among others, passed for more than 2,000 yards this season.
Earle, the 3-2A Conference's No. 1 seed, was 10-1 on the field, but finishes 0-11. The Bulldogs had a first-round bye in the Class 2A playoffs and an open date in Week 9.
Bulldogs assistant coach Carl Miller declined to name the ineligible player, but said he was disappointed by Thursday's news.
"It's sad and depressing right now," said Miller, a longtime assistant under A.C. Coleman at Earle. "It's frustrating. You wait until the day before the semifinal game and come tell us.
"It was devastating to all of [the players]."
When asked if Earle will file an injunction with the AAA to halt the Class 2A playoffs, Miller did not specify, but said that's what the community wants the school to do.
Salem Coach Clay Wiggins said he was shocked by Earle forfeiting and his team moving on in the playoffs.
"I didn't find out until 4 this afternoon," Wiggins said Thursday. "Everybody's excited about the fact that we get to put the pads on right now.
"If we would have had to play [today], we would have been in trouble. We would have been playing with a short hand."
Wiggins said he'll meet with his players today to hand out equipment, then they'll have a light practice before going through its normal game week beginning Monday.
However, Mineral Springs Coach David Bennett, whose team lost 46-26 at Earle in the Class 2A second round Nov. 17, said the Earle ruling not only affected the Bulldogs, but Salem and Mineral Springs, 7-5 and 6-6 after the forfeits, respectively. Mineral Springs was the No. 4 seed from the 7-2A Conference.
Bennett added that he and superintendent Thelma Forte expect to hear from the AAA today regarding Mineral Springs and if the association will have the school return to the playoffs to face Salem in a quarterfinal game to determine who will face Foreman in the semifinals instead of having Salem face Foreman in place of Earle.
"Let us play Monday. The winner plays Foreman on Saturday [Dec. 9] and you still have your state championship on that Friday [Dec. 15]," Bennett said. "We've got the time available."
Wiggins, though, said he is ready for whatever unfolds.
"I would go with whatever the AAA had me do," Wiggins said. "We're excited to play another game. I told some of our kids I'll load you up on the bus to play the next game.
"We'll play whoever we'll be told to play."
Warren at Joe T. Robinson Arkadelphia at Pea Ridge
Osceola at Junction City McGehee at Rivercrest
FRIDAY, DEC. 8
Salem at Foreman Mount Ida at Camden Harmony Grove
Sports on 12/01/2017