published Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Dalton High School football player declared ineligible

In this file photo, Dalton football head coach Matt Land rotates the team through practice.
In this file photo, Dalton football head coach Matt Land rotates the team through practice.
Photo by Jake Daniels.
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DALTON, Ga. — The Georgia High School Association announced Wednesday morning that Dalton High School used an ineligible player and will have to forfeit four games.

Senior linebacker Corey Smith played at Southeast Whitfield High School his first three years. Dr. Ralph Swearngin, executive secretary of the GHSA, ruled that Smith had not properly changed addresses into the Dalton City Schools system.

Dalton High Principal Debbie Freeman said the school will appeal.

"We believe strongly that we painted a clear picture of a complex situation to the GHSA that demonstrated that Dalton High School followed reasonable precautions regarding this player's living situation," Freeman said at a morning news conference at Harmon Field.

"Dr. Swearngin's ruling is based on his belief that every precaution was not taken; therefore, we will begin the appeals process soon," she said.

It's the second such ruling in the region in the last two weeks. Signal Mountain was forced by the TSSAA to vacate six games for playing an ineligible athlete.

Barring an overturn of the ruling, the Catamounts' record goes from 6-2 to 2-6 after forfeiting wins against Gilmer County, Murray County and league foes Heritage and Ridgeland. Dalton, now 2-2 in Region 7A-AAA, would need to defeat Southeast and have Heritage lose to Ridgeland to finish in one of the top three subregion crossover play-in games.

The top three teams in the A subregion and B subregion will meet next Friday to determine the region's four playoff teams.

Dalton High head coach Matt Land said his team will move forward with that goal in mind.

"My concern, as always, is with our football team and how we will move forward," said Land. "We have a game this Friday night and the opponent is not our major concern. As far as this team and the character of this team, what I learned a long time ago is that while many people believe the record makes the men, I believe it's the men who make the record."

Harsh words

Freeman spoke harshly of the Southeast Whitfield administration. She said it withheld information concerning Smith as long as it could, to do maximum damage to Dalton's season. Unless the ruling is overturned, Dalton's streak of 51 consecutive seasons of winning football is over.

"I expected more courtesy and consideration from another district and am disappointed in the actions of the reporting school's administration," Freeman said. "I went into education many years ago because of my love of young people, and I thought other educators shared that same interest, but on Oct. 14 that changed for me."

She said Southeast High Principal Brian Satterfield filed the complaint that day but told her he had known about the irregularity since Oct. 5.

"Had Southeast contacted anyone at Dalton High School as soon as he knew, we would have handled this situation immediately. Dalton then would be forfeiting fewer games," Freeman said. "My wish is that Southeast had handled the situation differently, but they didn't, and now this incident has changed the lives of this young man, his family, this school and this community."

Messages left at Southeast Whitfield for Satterfield were not returned late Wednesday.

Freeman said Smith decided to transfer because his family was caught up in the poor economic situation left by the recession.

about Lindsey Young...

Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...

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Wilder said...

This establishes Dalton's priorities - one high school football player out of district, and it's front page, end of the world news, an invasion of 50,000 illegal foreign nationals, nary a word.

October 27, 2011 at 8:43 a.m.
jeepgirl said...

I just think it's about time. Everyone has know this has been going on for year and they finaly got caught. I think Dalton High Principal words about Southeast were petty.

October 27, 2011 at 9:35 a.m.
kingofDeetown said...

@jeepgirl Petty, in what way? Satterfield admitted he knew about the irregularity and waited weeks to inform DHS admin about it and by doing so avoided any professional courtesy in contacting DHS admin, instead going straight to a formal complaint. Thus creating the maximum damage from the complaint and affording no opportunity for their rival (DHS') administration to make sure they were either in compliance or putting the kid on the bench. Instead it delivers the loss of a winning season (the first in my lifetime) and likely prevents a shot at the region's playoffs. This is certainly an ego blow for the coaches, team, and community- but these kids on the team, cheerleaders, pep-squad members . . .et al. will remember this for much longer and bear more of the brunt of South East's administrations actions, or more accurately strategically delayed in-action.

It's fairly evident whose actions were, in your words, "petty."

@Wilder Very true- painfully so in fact, bread and circuses have always taken priority in the "carpet capital." The town faces an industry doomed to a slow exodus as the textile manufacturing makes it inevitable move across the seas and borders- DHS football is the last vestige of this manufacturing town's heyday.

October 27, 2011 at 10 a.m.
hcdeparent said...

I agree with jeepgirl....The principal of Dalton is only thinking about those 51 consecutive seasons of winning football. Her statement of..."Had Southeast contacted anyone at Dalton High School as soon as he knew, we would have handled this situation immediately." She didn't say "we would have looked into it"...Sounds like she knew but didn't think someone else knew.

October 27, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
Wilder said...


There is a lot more involved than just DHS football, but this flap over it is indicative of how the town has acheived its current status.

Anyone with a knowledge of the carpet industry knows that the people who were responsible for its past success, and their descendents, have been tossed away like yesterday's news, by their successors, who by definition, are felons.

What is puzzling is that the citizens have taken it all while lying down, but are working themselves into a frenzy over events of much less relevance. Had they been this vocal when the carpet cartel began their campaign to repopulate the town, there might be something left of Dalton worth salvaging.

October 27, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.
TheRedEyeFlies said...

It's great how nobody hardly cares about it when it is more serious a situatuion than Signal Mountain is in since this case was a blaten violation. the only reason that Signal Mountain is in the spotlight is because they do so well and everybody wants to tear them down.

October 28, 2011 at 12:05 a.m.
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