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Bennett High football team forced to forfeit 6 games; BTF calls for investigation

Section VI said the ruling was made because one student played JV football in the Sweet Home School District last season and didn't officially transfer.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — One of Western New York's top high school football teams is forfeiting six games for allegedly using an ineligible player.

The Buffalo News reported Friday that Section VI ruled that Bennett High will forfeit the six games that it has played because one of its players played JV football in the Sweet Home Central School District last season and didn't officially transfer.

2 On Your Side spoke with Assistant Superintendent for Athletics Michael House on Friday. He felt that Section VI unfairly punished the team. 

"I just don't agree that the consequence fits the crime, so to speak," House said. "You've penalized the whole football team here, and I don't think it's fair."

House told WGRZ that Section VI reached out to him on Tuesday, asking to investigate the status of a player. 

"We had no idea that this student had played JV football as an eighth grader," House said. "Again, this isn't a high school student coming to high school, it's a middle school student who played up, playing high school ball, and then transferred over."

Bennett played Niagara Falls Friday night, defeating them 42-14. Since their record was expunged by Section VI, their new record is 1-6. 

"I don't mind accepting responsibility here," House said. "We'd be willing to pay a fine to the section, or whatever.

"We want to make sure that that the students are well taken care of, and it doesn't impact them negatively." 

But the decision by Section VI marred what was supposed to be a celebratory senior night at All-High Stadium. 

"I feel like these children have been cheated," Amanda Goodman said.

Goodman's son, Xavier, is a senior on the Bennett Tigers and finds the timing of the inquiry by Section VI suspicious. 

"They wait until the seventh or eighth games to say that there was a clerical error, I think that is a disservice that these boys who earned those wins," Goodman said.

Buffalo Public Schools board member Sharon Belton-Cottman was circling the crowd at All High, asking people to sign petitions that will be submitted to the state and local lawmakers like Senator Tim Kennedy. 

Cottman called out Section VI's seemingly targeted investigation into Bennett High. 

"You can't beat our children on the field, the only way you can beat them is with paperwork," Cottman said. 

Cottman said there have been continued actions by Section VI over the years that have impacted urban school districts such as Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Cottman also cited that no urban district athletic leaders have a seat at the table within executive roles at Section VI.

"All of their guidelines for the most part have been set up some way or another to taint the urban school districts, and we're going to be fighting that fight," Cottman said. 

Buffalo Public Schools say they'll be appealing Section VI's decision on Monday morning. 

The Buffalo Teachers Federation is calling for an investigation.

“Yes, rules are rules," BTF president Phil Rumore said in a statement. "However, considering the impact on the students on the football team and how the student who unknowingly was involved must feel, there should be a full investigation of when Section VI was notified, who notified them, how long it took to investigate this issue, etc."

Rumore added: "We need a thorough investigation of a procedure that harshly punishes innocent victims and examples of the same punishments for the same infractions."

Last year the Tigers reached the state championship home, where it lost to Carmel High School 42-12. They finished the season 11-2.

"This is when you find out who you are," Tigers coach Stevenson McDuffie said after that game. "So they have to learn that, guess what, life is going to be a battle. And in life, things are not going to always go your way. But you have to learn that it's how you respond to things when they don't go your way. That's what defines you as a young man."

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