WEST NEWBURY — Pentucket Youth Football's board of directors accepted a postseason ban from the Cape Ann Youth Football League after admitting to falsifying addresses to allow more out-of-town players from Haverhill to participate than allowed by league rules, CAYFL Commissioner Brian Hubbard said in an email to Pentucket parents.
Pentucket Youth Football was offered the opportunity to play in the postseason if its board of directors immediately stepped down, according to Hubbard, who is also the head of the Masconomet Youth Football program.
The board reportedly declined, saying that nearly all of Pentucket's A and B team coaches are board members and if they stepped down, there would not be any coaches with the proper experience and certification available to finish the season.
"Our hands unfortunately are tied. Our entire board (which includes almost all the coaches on the A and B level) would no longer be allowed to coach, and we are then concerned about parents who are not truly familiar with coaching and are not USA certified at hopping in, and the liability issues that could ensue," PYF Commissioner Michael Zimirowski wrote to Hubbard. "We hate this decision, but we thought it better to finish on a strong note together."
Hubbard said that after meeting with parents and the PYF board last week, the CAYFL board approved the motion to allow Pentucket back into the postseason if three conditions were met.
The PYF board members would have to step down for the remaining four weeks of the season, any board members who also coached would have to step down from their coaching responsibilities for the remainder of the season, and parents would need to be notified by email about these options while errors in previous emails sent to them about the situation would have to be corrected.
"While I know the above would be difficult for some, I personally assumed this would be a solution allowing the kids to participate in the playoffs this season," Hubbard wrote.
Hubbard said he heard back from the PYF board that they would not be participating in the postseason. Pentucket's players and parents were subsequently told of the decision over the weekend.
The postseason ban stems from rules violations where Pentucket board members falsified addresses so that more players from Haverhill could take part in the program.
The CAYFL has a 10% rule that dictates no more than 10% of a team's roster can come from out of town, and in an email to parents, the PYF board acknowledged that it falsified addresses to do so, saying they did it so they wouldn't have to turn away any kids who wanted to play.
"The feeling that we got from the league was we don't care where these kids play, they just can't play with you, and we felt that was wrong because we want the kids to play football, we're trying to save football in Massachusetts," said PYF President Kurt Slevoski. "A lot of them came to us, we didn't recruit them, they came to us. We turned kids away at the beginning of the season because we felt we couldn't take any more kids. That's the hard part, we turned kids away."
Slevoski noted that Haverhill kids have played for Pentucket in the past without incident, and it didn't become an issue until recently when Pentucket's teams have seen improvement on the field.
He also denied the notion that PYF falsified addresses to gain a competitive advantage, saying that if that were the goal, they would have been taking additional Haverhill players on the competitive A and B teams and not the developmental JVC and D teams where most of those athletes play.
"If you look at the numbers, where is the majority of the kids? If we were doing it at the B level we would have taken half our team, but we have two who have been there for six years, that's the same for the A team, they've been there for years, it's never been an issue until this year," Slevoski said. "To say we took them as a competitive advantage, that's not true."
According to Pentucket Youth Football rosters provided to The Daily News, Pentucket's A team has 26 players, of which seven are from Haverhill; the B team has 26 players with two from Haverhill; the JVC team has 30 players, including 19 from Haverhill; and the D team has 19 players with nine from Haverhill.
Slevoski said after notifying players and parents of the option to play in the postseason if the board and coaches stepped down, they overwhelmingly supported forgoing the postseason so they could finish the season together, which was confirmed by multiple parents who reached out to The Daily News on Sunday night.
Regardless, once the season is over, Slevoski said the board members intend to step aside and turn the program over to a new group of parents and supporters who have offered to step up.