Jefferson football finds way into state tournament

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LAKEWOOD — Perhaps someone was watching over the Saints from above.

Because just as it looked like the Jefferson Saints wouldn’t be allowed to participate in the 2A state football tournament they got some good news from higher up.

Not that high up, but by CHSAA who after wanting to not allow Jefferson in the state tournament, will now get to see if the Saints are as good as they think they are.

After a scheduling mishap almost cost the Saints two forfeits, one overturning a game they won in Week Zero, Jefferson found a loophole that will allow the team to participate in the state tournament as a No. 15 seed, playing powerhouse No. 2 seed Manitou Springs, 1 p.m. on Saturday.

“It was a tough conversation to have with the team but we told them the playoffs weren’t likely but to still believe because anything could still happen,” Jefferson head coach Anthony Rankin said.

CHSAA wanted to keep Jefferson out of the state tournament due to the fact that they scheduled 10 games, when supposedly a 2A team could only schedule nine games.

CHSAA said because of the scheduling problem they had to forfeit their first game of the season, a win over Pinnacle, as well as their 10th game against Nederland, which they did forfeit.

But a valiant push from Rankin, the school, the football program and from parents, as well as a little help from bad publicity stowed upon CHSAA, has given Jefferson the opportunity to compete in the state tournament for the first time in decades.

Rankin and the Saints argued the rules as saying the team must play a minimum of nine games, not nine games exactly.

Avoiding a potential bigger mess CHSAA gave Jefferson back their win over Pinnacle and with an 8-2 overall record the Saints used wildcard points to secure themselves their first winning season since 1996.

“It would have been devastating if these kids after everything they have been through weren’t allowed to participate in the playoffs,” Rankin said. “We are thrilled our team has a chance to compete.”

However, Rankin, alum of Jefferson, has been placed on a restriction by CHSAA, meaning he cannot coach in the playoff game, as of now. Rankin was placed on restriction as a punishment of the scheduling error.

But it also should be noted that Rankin and the Saints have had four different athletic directors since March of 2012, and the athletic director who helped create Jefferson’s schedule is no longer with the school.

And that no one at CHSAA ever alerted Jefferson their schedule was inadequate.

And whether Rankin coaches in the playoffs or not he now recognized as one of the hottest young coaches in high school football.

Rankin took over a team that was 2-77 over a run of 10 years, and the program even shut down for a stretch.