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Elkins player eligible, 7 wins will count

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Elkins and its single-wing offense are back in the mix in the Class AAA playoffs.On Monday, the SSAC restored the eligibility of Elkins senior running back L.J. Lawrence and the seven wins of the Tigers football team, which puts them back in the No. 8 spot of the AAA ratings and again reshuffled the figures of many teams in the AAA and AA playoff chases.The SSAC announced the change in a release distributed to media around the state."Elkins High School will not be required to forfeit any football games,'' the released stated.Last week, the SSAC ruled that Lawrence, who has run for nearly 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, was ineligible because of residency requirements, forcing the Tigers to forfeit all their wins.Shortly thereafter, though, the situation changed.Since Lawrence was considered homeless by federal guidelines, it was argued by Randolph County school officials that he should be covered by the government's McKinney-Vento Act, which outlines a course of action for schools to handle the education of homeless students. In that act, state athletic associations are required to remove barriers like attendance rules that prevent homeless students from participating in sports.Lawrence moved to Randolph County over the summer to live with his grandmother. During the firestorm, he received legal representation and his attorney, Lori Gray, filed a motion in Randolph County for a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction against the SSAC ruling.A judge was set to rule on the matter early this week, and a hearing on the temporary injunction motion was originally scheduled for Friday morning.
The SSAC apparently had no provision in its bylaws to recognize the McKinney-Vento Act, and spent the weekend working with its attorney to come up with a solution."At the request of this office,'' the SSAC statement said, "the West Virginia State Board of Education reviewed the federal law cited by the Randolph County superintendent, and concluded that under these particular facts and circumstances of this case, the student athlete in question is eligible for interscholastic athletic competition in West Virginia because of federal law.''The SSAC will release its updated playoff ratings today, and nearly every Kanawha Valley AAA team will be affected by the restoration of Elkins' eligibility.For instance, Hurricane and Capital drop from eighth and nine, respectively, to ninth and 10th because Elkins moves into the No. 8 spot. All three have one game remaining Friday.Meanwhile, South Charleston, which has completed its regular season, jumps from No. 17 to No. 16 since Oak Hill does not receive a forfeit from its game against Elkins. Oak Hill drops from 11th to 17th in AAA.The ratings will be similarly affected in AA, but not Class A, which remained unchanged throughout last week's proceedings.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or  
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