CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Four South Charleston High School football players suspended after last weekend's on-field brawl will play in Saturday's state Class AAA semifinal, after Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster granted a temporary restraining order on Tuesday.
Because the courthouse is closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday, there is not enough time to schedule a hearing where the four players -- Tyler Harris, Pierria' Henry, Emerson Gagnon and Trevond Reese -- and the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission can present their sides of the story, the judge said.
The players are now eligible to play in Saturday's Class AAA semifinal game against Brooke High School. They were suspended Monday by the WVSSAC for their involvement in a brawl at the end of Friday's playoff game against Hurricane High School at Laidley Field.
Webster's order states that the players "have presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that they will suffer immediate and irreparable harm" if they have to wait for a hearing before they can play.
Charleston attorney Ben Salango filed for an injunction on behalf of the players Tuesday morning.
WVSSAC Executive Director Gary Ray, whose office announced the suspensions of the South Charleston and Hurricane players on Monday after receiving its report from the game officials, was disappointed his group didn't get the chance to be heard in court on Tuesday.
"We'd have liked to have the opportunity to at least have our guys appear,'' Ray said. "We didn't even know they were going to have a hearing. We wanted to have our attorney be heard.''
The SSAC is represented by Beckley attorney Bill Wooton.
Ray said he realizes that with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the legal system will slow or close for a few days, making it tougher for his side to come up with a response to the ruling.
"Part of the problem is that we're in the holiday season, and like everybody else, you shut down,'' Ray said. "I understand that. We have to decide on something, and I don't know yet. We're working on it right now, what direction we need to go in with the short notification we just got and sent to [Wooton].''
Webster has scheduled a hearing in the matter for Monday at 1:30 p.m., Salango said.
Ray was asked about the possibility of the SSAC either suspending the AAA playoffs until it can make its next legal move, or retroactively stripping SC of a championship if it used the players in question and went on to take a third straight title.
"We will do what's best for the situation,'' Ray said. "We'll try to make the best decision for our member schools and our student-athletes. We haven't looked that far ahead at this time.
"We were hoping to get it taken care of before the contest, as far as having a full hearing. But that has not occurred. We'll just have to take it a step at a time and see where we are.''
South Charleston coach John Messinger, who spent part of Tuesday deer hunting, was relieved to hear about Webster's order.
"I am for the interim,'' he said, "but the court hearing is still out there. It still has to take place, so we'll see. Given the way this thing has broken down so far, I think this at least gives the kids the opportunity to get a fair shake. Somebody's doing something right for them. We're glad it's given the kids that opportunity.''