ANCHORAGE - The incident that caused an official to eject one of Juneau-Douglas' top players from Saturday's large-schools state playoff game will keep him from Saturday's championship game against Palmer, according to Alaska's governing body of high school activities.
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Crimson Bears senior Faifo Levale was ejected for throwing two punches at a South Anchorage player after he recovered a fumble for a touchdown. The ejection means the 280-pound lineman must sit out one game - Saturday's First National Bowl at Anchorage Football Stadium.
A lawyer representing Juneau called the Alaska Schools Activities Association on Monday, said ASAA director of special events John Andrews, asking if the Crimson Bears could appeal.
Andrews said it's a ruling ASAA cannot overturn.
"It's a judgment call by the officials," Andrews said. "Those can't be overruled."
Rob Walkotte, a Fairbanks referee who helped officiate the Juneau-South semifinal at AFS, and Anchorage umpire Harold Wilson, both witnessed the incident. Walkotte submitted an official's ejection report to ASAA on Monday.
"At 11:57 left in the fourth quarter, a South player was on top of Levale when Levale delivered two closed-fist strikes to the opposing player's side," Walkotte wrote.
Appealing suspensions to ASAA isn't unprecedented.
In 1997, a Juneau football player was ejected for fighting. But he told ASAA board members that football officials did not witness the incident where a Chugiak player was seen tripping, grabbing his ankle and punching him in the leg.
The board, however, ruled against overruling the Juneau player's suspension, by abiding ASAA's bylaw of personal conduct and sportsmanship.
"The appeal is to only ensure due process to those suspended," the bylaw reads. "The board does not intend to review officials' decisions or second guess their calls."
Levale, an all-state defensive end and all-Railbelt Conference center, said he understood why officials would eject him. It looked like he threw a punch, he said, but he didn't.
"His helmet was in my stomach," Levale said. "I just tried getting him off ... It's just common sense."
Juneau offensive coordinator Rich Sjoroos said he didn't see the incident, which started when South quarterback Colin Graham fumbled his own end zone. Teammate Andy Higgins and Levale both dove for the loose ball. Levale recovered it for the touchdown that put Juneau ahead 31-0.
Sjoroos said after the game he would look at the film for a possible appeal. But the officials seemed confident Levale threw punches, he said.
"They don't want to toss a guy," Sjoroos said. "That's not their intentions. Rob made the call and said he was 100 percent sure it was a punch.
"I have to go with them," he added. "No referee out there wants to have an impact on a game like that unless they have to make that call."
Levale's suspension could hurt the 10-0 Crimson Bears on both sides of the ball. Defensively, Juneau have given up only 7.2 points per game this season. Offensively, it averages 34.5 points a game.
Levale played a major role in both of those lopsided numbers.
"He's our best center," Sjoroos said.
The ejection changed Juneau's game plan in the fourth quarter on Saturday, he said, because the team is short on offensive linemen.
Juneau's second-string center already was serving a team-imposed one-game suspension for discipline, so coaches replaced Levale at center with Juneau's first-team All-Railbelt Conference defensive end, Zach Heppner.
"The snaps were real slow and it really threw off the timing," said Sjoroos, who only dressed six offensive linemen.
"We were down to the last five when Faifo got ejected. We were kind of struggling - we only have seven on the team.
"South's got 20 linemen. I wanted to borrow a few."
Find Kevin Klott online at adn.com/contact/kklott or call 257-4335.
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