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The Pulaski County Special School District has appealed a ruling by the Arkansas Activities Association that said Mills High School used an ineligible player during the 2019 football season.

The appeal was filed Tuesday.

"This is a student-scholar driven decision," a statement from the Pulaski County Special School District read. "We support the student-athletes who played hard for every victory this season."

[HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Scores, photos, stories, rankings + more » arkansasonline.com/arpreps/]

Mills, which is located in Little Rock, self-reported the violation to the AAA, which announced the forfeits in a news release Nov. 6. The Comets were forced to forfeit four victories because of the violation.

The four victories that were forfeited included a nonconference victory against Jacksonville on Sept. 6, and three 2-4A Conference victories against Central Arkansas Christian (Oct. 4), Lonoke (Oct. 18) and Stuttgart (Oct. 25). The school was also placed on warning by the AAA for one year.

Jessica Duff, a spokeswoman for the Pulaski County Special School District, said the district wanted to support the football players by going through with the appeal.

"It was an exciting year," Duff said. "Not just to win one, but four games. We don't necessarily feel that the punishment fits the crime."

An appeal hearing date has not been set. The hearing would be at the AAA's office in North Little Rock.

Stuttgart Coach Josh Price told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Tuesday that he reported Mills to the AAA for possibly using an ineligible player Oct. 25 against Stuttgart. Price sent a certified letter to the AAA on Oct. 28, then the ruling was made the next week.

"All of us here in the country and the rural school districts have to abide by the rules," Price said. "We just want everybody else to do so, too."

Mills defeated Stuttgart 20-14 at Ned Mosley Stadium in Stuttgart for its fourth victory of the season.

The Comets' season ended Friday with a 28-14 loss at home to Heber Springs. They finished 0-10 overall and 0-7 in the 2-4A after the forfeits. Without the forfeits, Mills' final record would have been 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the conference.

Even if Mills wins its appeal, it will not qualify for the Class 4A playoffs because the Comets still would be one game behind Heber Springs for the No. 5 seed. Entering Friday's Class 4A first round, Riverview (7-3, 5-2) is the No. 1 seed, Southside Batesville (7-3, 5-2) No. 2, CAC (7-3, 5-2) No. 3, Lonoke (6-4, 5-2) No. 4 and Heber Springs (4-6, 4-3) No. 5.

"We know that we can't make the playoffs," Duff said. "But the kids shouldn't have to suffer the consequences."

Cortez Lee is in his first season as Mills' head coach. He was hired in April to take over for Patrick Russell, who was at Mills for 12 seasons. He was an assistant coach at White Hall from 2016-18 and also had served as a head coach at Pine Bluff Dollarway.

Lee was not made available for comment by the Pulaski County Special School District.

Mills was attempting to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013, when it went 9-3 and advanced to the Class 5A quarterfinals under Russell. The Comets have not won a game on the field since Oct. 13, 2017, at Little Rock Fair and are on a 23-game losing streak, which is the state's second-longest entering the 2020 season behind Rogers Heritage (24 games) of Class 7A.

Sports on 11/13/2019

Print Headline: Mills appeals AAA ruling for forfeits

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