MEDFORD — The championship dreams of Medford High School’s boys soccer team were revived in stunning fashion Friday when a court granted an emergency restraining order permitting the Mustangs to play Saturday for the Division 1 North sectional title.
The court order overturned a ruling by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association that ousted Medford from the tournament because it had played the entire season with an ineligible player.
The violation, caused by a clerical oversight, according to school officials, resulted in Medford forfeiting its season under MIAA regulations. Medford had asked the MIAA to waive the violation rather than punish the entire team for an administrative miscue, but the request was denied.
The court ruling sets the stage for Medford to play Lincoln-Sudbury for the sectional title at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Manning Field in Lynn. The player who was deemed ineligible is cleared to play as well.
“You see people act like that when they win the lottery,’’ Medford athletic director Robert Maloney said in a news conference at the high school. “They’re very happy. They’ve been professional since August . . . They deserve to continue on.”
Medford and the MIAA are scheduled to return to court early next week, as the city seeks an injunction that would allow the team to continue playing in the tournament should it defeat Lincoln-Sudbury.
The winner of Saturday’s game advances to the state semifinals Nov. 20 at Norwell High School. The date of the state championship game has yet to be determined.
“As students, as athletes, as young men, these individuals have done nothing to deserve elimination from the tournament,” Medford’s school superintendent, Dr. Marice Edouard-Vincent, said. “They have conducted themselves as sportsmen, and true representatives of the MIAA and the Medford Public Schools.’’
Medford officials, after the MIAA board of directors denied their appeal Thursday, sought relief Friday from the MIAA’s governing body, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Council, which also rejected the request.
“The MIAC understands adults make mistakes; however, the MIAA membership has established rules to provide fairness and equity in athletic competition,’’ the organization said in a statement after the court’s ruling. “The MIAC will continue to work with the Medford High School administration to assist in developing a high level of eligibility review for their program.’’
Medford entered the North Sectional as the fourth seed, and is 17-3-1 after three tournament victories. The Mustangs defeated Chelmsford, 6-2, in the first round and Lexington, 2-1, in the quarterfinals before rolling over Andover, 8-0, in the semifinals on Monday.
On Wednesday, however, Medford athletic director Robert Maloney received a congratulatory call from Thomas Arria, his Cambridge Rindge and Latin counterpart. Arria noted that one of Medford’s players had competed for Cambridge, and would have needed a waiver to play this season for Medford, according to the city’s civil complaint, filed by its attorney, John McGlynn Jr., in Middlesex Superior Court.
The student had withdrawn from Cambridge in 2018 after the 11th grade, then enrolled at Medford in February 2019. He had exhausted his four years of athletic eligibility, but could have been cleared to play this season had the school requested a waiver.
Yet Medford officials said they were unaware that he needed a waiver until the call from Arria.
“It was one of those things that just slipped through the cracks,’’ McGlynn said in an interview. “It’s just too bad this happened, because it didn’t need to happen.’’
On Thursday, Medford reported the violation to the MIAA and asked for the waiver. When the request was denied, the school appealed to the MIAA’s board of directors, which rejected the request by the narrowest of margins, a vote of 5-5 with two abstentions.
Medford then sought the restraining order, arguing in part that the MIAA had violated the state’s open meeting law by not posting a notice of the conference call the board held to decide the matter.
Although McGlynn filed a civil complaint in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, no judge was available to preside over the emergency hearing, so the case was heard in Woburn District Court.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the entire Medford High School soccer team to play in the North division finals,’’ the complaint stated. “This opportunity, if the court does not grant this injunction, will be lost to them forever and nobody will be able to make it up to them.’’
The complaint was filed on behalf of Maloney, Medford Mayor Stephanie Muccini Burke, high school headmaster Paul D’Alleva, the ineligible student-athlete (who is described as Student A), and the soccer team.
Lincoln-Sudbury, 16-1-2 and the No. 3 seed, was awarded a victory by forfeit, 1-0, before the court’s ruling. It beat Medford, 4-0, in the 2015 sectional final.Globe correspondent Maria Lovato contributed to this report. Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.