GREENVILLE, Maine — If the Greenville High School boys soccer team is to make a return trip to the Class D state championship match later this fall, it will have to overcome an additional hurdle.
The Lakers, winners of seven of their first eight games this season to rise to the No. 1 seed in Western Maine Class D, will vacate five of those victories after it was discovered the team had been using an ineligible player since the start of the season.
The oversight was discovered last Friday and reported to the Maine Principals’ Association, though MPA executive director Dick Durost said Wednesday morning that the forfeits won’t become official and reflected in the Heal point ratings until his organization receives a formal letter concerning the matter from the school.
Durost added that he has spoken to Greenville principal Kelly MacFadyen about the issue.
When the forfeits become official, the Lakers’ record will drop to 2-6 — with the only victories a two-game sweep of Vinalhaven/North Haven last weekend.
Greenville athletic administrator Jeff Stafford, who notified head coach Jeff Richards of the pending forfeits Friday morning, accepted the blame for the incident and resigned from his post later that day.
“We were using an ineligible player and it wasn’t detected on my part,” said Stafford, who was beginning his 14th year as the school’s athletic administrator.
“It ultimately was my responsibility to pick up on it, but it wasn’t detected. I feel sick about it, I really do, because this is a really good group of kids and I’ve put them in a hole.”
Richards, who is not otherwise employed by the school and works as a merchant marine, said the player involved was ineligible based on his standing at the end of the previous school year and that he was not notified of that player’s status before this season began.
Richards told his team — including the ineligible player, a senior who will be eligible to return to the roster on Oct. 5 — of the pending forfeits during a team meeting before Greenville played Vinalhaven/North Haven on Friday afternoon.
“You hate to see something like this happen, because this is probably the best start a Greenville team has had in a long time,” he said. “But the good thing about this is the guys I have playing here are pretty solid kids. They’re all friends, they’re all upbeat and they’re very positive about the situation.”
Richards said that with six matches left in Greenville’s regular season, the team still has the chance to achieve the same goals it had at the start of preseason practices in mid-August.
“I just told the kids the season starts now,” he said. “The kids know they still control their own destiny as far as getting into the playoffs and having a good seed, and they know they’re still going to have to beat the same teams they would have had to beat before all this happened.”
The 13-player Greenville squad is coming off a 2011 campaign that produced the school’s first regional boys soccer crown since 1995 before the Lakers fell to Bangor Christian 4-2 in the state final.
Greenville is scheduled to return to action at home Saturday against 7-1 Richmond, which has been ranked second behind the Lakers in the most recent Heal points. Game time for the rematch — Greenville won 3-1 earlier this season at Richmond — is 1 p.m.
“This isn’t about just making the playoffs or getting to the Western Maine final for these kids,” said Richards. “They’re after a state championship, and they believe they can still get there.