Insisting that a bad call cost their team a state championship, Peach County football supporters are raising money to buy championship rings that they believe their players and coaches deserve.
Peach County lost to Calhoun 10-6 in the Class AAA game on Dec. 8 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Officials missed a call that could have given Peach County a go-ahead touchdown or a first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line in the final four minutes. Instead, Calhoun got possession and held on for the victory.
Peach County’s booster club has established a website – peachcountyrings.com – that explains the rationale for the fundraiser and allows supporters to donate.
''By now we’ve all seen the videos, watched the replays, and probably taken part in our own heated debates with family and friends,’’ a statement on the Website reads. “At the end of it all we know what has happened. The 2017 Peach County Trojans were robbed. A bad call on the field resulted in the apparent loss of the 2017 3A championship. Appeals have been filed and arguments have been heard and the original ruling still stands. At this point it's up to the community to show its support to this championship team. The school has decided to recognize their victory when others won’t with the local purchase of 2017 championship rings for this year's team.''
The controversial play took place with 3:33 left and Peach County trailing 10-6 and facing a fourth-and-8 at Calhoun’s 21-yard line. Peach County threw a pass to a receiver at the 5. Confirmed by video of the GPB-televised game, the receiver caught the ball and took a couple of steps and reached out with the ball for the goal line.
The ball popped loose when it hit the ground. An official trailing the play called the pass incomplete once he saw the ball get loose. It would’ve been a Peach County touchdown or first-and-goal inside the 1.
Calhoun supporters say that there also were critical missed calls that went against them too, at least one involving a turnover. They also point to video that shows that the Peach County wide receiver stepped out of bounds and came back in to make the catch. That calls for a 15-yard penalty unless, as Peach County supporters assert, that the receiver was forced out by a defender. Then, a catch still would be legal.
The controversy has made national news and prompted debate about whether the GHSA should use instant replay when available. Video evidence is not currently allowed under current GHSA rules or national federation rules.
Peach County officials met with the GHSA’s board of trustees on Dec. 18 and pleaded its case.
Peach County football coach and athletics director Chad Campbell, joined by more than 40 assistant coaches, players, administrators and Peach County fans, requested that the game be replayed from the point of the controversial play or that Peach County be named co-champions with Calhoun.
The board declared that the original result stand.
Campbell and Peach County principal Ken Hartley each spoke on a video on the Website asking for support for the purchase of the state-championship rings, which are commonly provided by boosters and athletic departments after state championships. The GHSA does not award rings.
‘’The state championship game was kind of taken away from us, and we want to honor our kids for the outstanding season,'' Campbell said.
Said Hartley, “We know at the end of a championship, you deserve rings, and our kids deserve rings. We all know what happened on December the 8th in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. A championship was won by our Trojans.’’