Maine South football used ineligible players in 2022, forced to forfeit nine games

Mack Jones

On March 8, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) forced the Maine South High School football program to forfeit all nine of their wins from the 2022 season for using ineligible players that lived outside of the attendance boundaries of Park Ridge. The program is now on probation until the end of the 2023-2024 school year, and further violations will see the program removed from the IHSA State Football Playoffs. 

“The IHSA recently received credible information that Maine South football players who did not reside in the district participated on the team during the 2022 IHSA football season,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in the IHSA’s press release. “District 207 and Maine South High School personnel promptly conducted a meticulous internal investigation, in conjunction with the IHSA, after being informed of these allegations. After a thorough review, they self-reported violations of the IHSA residence by-laws by multiple student-athletes on its 2022 football roster.”

Representatives of the IHSA declined an interview on the subject.

“We fully support the IHSA and accept the sanctions,” District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace said in a Chicago Tribune article. “Along with Maine South football coach David Inserra, we will work diligently to ensure this never happens again. Coach Inserra is a dedicated educator and coach, and we know that he will work tirelessly with us to eliminate this issue. We need to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the IHSA, as well as the law in Illinois related to school residency. In this situation, I am most disappointed for the student-athletes on the 2022 Maine South football team who will bear the brunt of these penalties. Because of our location and the quality of our schools, we have always had instances of families trying to send students to our schools without establishing legal residency.”

The Maine South Hawks have been one of the best and most consistent programs in Illinois, winning six state championships under the leadership of head coach Inserra. In the 2022 season, the Hawks went 7-2 in the regular season, 5-0 in conference play and made the quarterfinals of the Class 8A playoffs before being eliminated by Glenbard West High School. 

One of the forfeited wins was a game against ETHS on Oct. 14, 2022, a game that took place during a downpour at Lazier Field. Maine South ran away with the game in the fourth quarter after a close first half, winning 28-7. That game clinched the Hawks’ 31st consecutive Central Suburban League South Division title and knocked the Wildkits out of playoff contention. 

“I really liked the effort. We just didn’t execute how we wanted to,” said senior Kits quarterback Dylan Groff. “I’ve been playing on this field since I was in third grade. You never really think it’s going to end. Knowing it’s over is just a weird feeling that hasn’t hit me right away.”

The game was senior night for ETHS football and the last home game of the season for the Wildkits. For many student-athletes at ETHS, it was their last opportunity to compete in front of friends and family who have supported them through their high school careers. There were 26 seniors on the Evanston roster, all of whom had the last home football game of their high school career impacted by Maine South’s transgressions. 

The specifics of the investigation are unknown to the general public. It is also unclear how many players were violating the by-law and how many years Maine South has been infringing on the boundary restrictions, but the punishment suggests the IHSA is taking this situation very seriously. 

“The IHSA’s by-laws are the foundation of the Association and its ability to follow its mission of providing equitable participation,” said Anderson. “With over 800 member schools, we depend on our schools to adhere to these rules and to work with the IHSA in instances where violations may have occurred. I commend Maine Township High School District 207 and Maine South High School personnel for recognizing the serious nature of these allegations and their diligence in investigating and reporting these violations. I believe that District 207 has already begun to take appropriate steps to prevent future issues like this from occurring again and will aid them in any way that I can in that process.”