Messmer/Shorewood quarterback Taylor Dennis said he was in class when he heard the news his team was playoff-bound.
"My face just lit up, I was so excited," he said.
Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Kevin Martens issued a temporary judgment Tuesday saying the WIAA must consider the football program for the playoffs and release the playoff pairings that includes the team. Playoffs start Friday and although Martens didn’t say when the pairings needed to be released, the WIAA issued playoff brackets shortly after.
Shorewood will take on second-seeded Milwaukee Riverside in the first round of the playoffs Friday night at 7 at Pulaski Stadium.
“It’s for the kids and our guys worked really hard,” Messmer/Shorewood football Coach Drake Zortman said. “This is about the rules and following them as they’re written.”
"These guys earned a playoff spot."
Bob Smith, president and CEO of Messmer Catholic Schools, said he's pleased with the judge's ruling for the sake of the students who worked hard all season.
"They can now focus on their challenge on the field. Win or lose, they’ve been given the chance to compete. That’s all any team can ask," he said in a statement.
Now, players are looking ahead to Friday's matchup and say they aren't intimidated by Riverside.
"It's going to be a good game and I expect us to go out and play like we've been playing all year, nothing more, nothing less," tight end/defensive end Jonathan Carson said.
The football team had initially been denied eligibility for the playoffs because it left the Woodland Conference in 2007 and WIAA rules state teams that do so are not eligible for the playoffs for four years.
However, Messmer/Shorewood officials said they had followed the rules as they were written and should be deemed playoff eligible this year because the team had joined the Midwest Classic Conference in 2011 and finished with a record above .500. Playoff qualification is typically based on finishing over that mark in a conference.
Frank Gimbel, the WIAA's attorney, argued that making the organization defend its position in court Tuesday would be an “ambush” because no such hearing or trial was scheduled. But Martens said he needed to issue the temporary judgment because the playoffs start this week and without a ruling now, Messmer/Shorewood wouldn’t be able to gain what it seeks if the case were ruled in its favor.
Gimbel said Martens understood his concerns and the WIAA will have to decide if it wants to seek an appeal or a final judgment in the case. Nevertheless, the Messmer/Shorewood team, which has a 4-2 conference record and is 4-4 overall, will take on Riverside (6-0, 8-1) either Friday or Saturday.
“The judge ruled and my clients are a lawful entity, so they will adhere to the ruling,” Gimbel said.
Zortman said the team will hold regular practice beginning at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Antoine Davis (534 yards, 7 TDs) and Xavier Johnson (501 yards, 9 TDs) are the top rushers, according to statistics at WisSports.net
Riverside (8-1, 6-0 City Conference) pulverized opponents in league play with an average victory margin of 61-4. The Tigers beat Catholic Memorial 21-18 and lost to Kenosha Bradford 27-14 in non-conference games.
For more on how the court hearings impacted other Patch area teams and their playoff preparations, click here.