Packer football team picks up a win as West forfeits four

Published 8:07am Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Team loses four victories  due to ineligible player

The Austin football team just picked up another win by doing nothing at all.

The Packers are now 2-3 overall and 2-2 in the Big Nine after Mankato West forfeited its first four victories of the season for using an ineligible player in those games, Mankato West Activities Director Ken Essay said Monday.

In the now-forfeited game, the Packers lost to West 57-23 on Sept. 7 at Art Hass Stadium. The game was the 21st straight loss for the Packers. The losing streak stretched to 22 games before the Packers beat Mankato East 18-0 on Sept. 21.

In the official records, the win means the Packers’ losing streak was snapped at 20 games.

Essay met with Minnesota State High School League officials Monday following a previously scheduled activities director’s meeting in Rochester.

“I made an incorrect ruling on the eligibility of a player, and because of that mistake we will forfeit the first four games,” Essay said. “You hope when you make a mistake that you’re the only one that gets hurt, but in this case, the coaches and the football team also get hurt.”

Essay said that data-privacy laws prevent him from identifying the player or discussing the details of the situation. Sources have said the ineligible player is senior running back Trenton Marks, who transferred from Mankato Loyola before the season. Marks, the team’s leading rusher, did not play in Friday’s homecoming loss to Rochester John Marshall.

Essay said he met with coach Mark Esch, the assistants and the players before Monday’s practice to announce the decision.

“Coach Esch is one of the classiest people I know,” Essay said. “He was all about looking forward, not back. It’s hard to tell the players who have worked hard to win those four games, but I have no doubt they’ll meet this adversity and be stronger at the end.”

Esch said that his team was surprised by the news, but he expects his players to react the proper way.

“I said we can do one of two things,” Esch said. “You can run from it and not deal with it, or you can take it straight on, which is what we’re doing. This doesn’t change any of our goals.”

The forfeits mean that West is 0-5 heading into Friday’s game at Rochester Mayo. While it means that the team has no chance of winning the Big Nine Conference, it also could affect the seedings for the section tournament. In Section 2AAAAA, which has six teams, the top two teams will get first-round byes. With the victories, West would have likely been one of those top two teams.

“We’re prepared to go on the road and play an extra game,” Esch said.

Essay said another decision will be made Wednesday regarding the future eligibility of the player.

—The Mankato Free Press contributed to this report.

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