Evergreen QB Griffin Lauritano, who briefly left Colorado after fall football cancelation, forced to sit out from playoffs due to transfer rule – The Denver Post
Griffin Lauritano has played football with his Evergreen teammates since they were fourth-graders.
Now a high school senior, Lauritano quarterbacked the Cougars this fall to a playoff berth — one he won’t be eligible to play in.
“It really is heartbreaking to go on a run like this against good teams to make the playoffs, and then have to sit on the sideline,” he said. “It’s demoralizing.”
A Colorado prep football season mired by the coronavirus pandemic, and the state’s indecision to play in the fall, combined to create an unfortunate finish for Lauritano. He’ll watch from the sidelines Friday when seventh-seeded Evergreen faces No. 2 Holy Family in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs due to a CHSAA transfer rule — despite Lauritano playing four years of varsity sports for Evergreen.
It started back in August when CHSAA initially postponed its football season to spring. Lauritano, Evergreen’s starting quarterback since late in his sophomore year, had dreams of earning a college scholarship. He feared it wouldn’t happen in Colorado.
“I knew I had to have a good senior season,” Lauritano said. “If that wasn’t going to come until the spring, with a lot of states still playing football in the fall, I knew I was going to fall behind and not be able to get my name out there (in recruiting) as much as I wanted to. I had to explore options elsewhere.”
Lauritano’s solution? Moving to Powder Springs, Ga., where his aunt was a teacher at Hillgrove High School in the state’s largest classification (7A). He wasn’t alone in his Colorado exodus. Several high-profile football players, including Grandview running back Noah Schmidt and Highlands Ranch QB Jake Rubley, also moved out-of-state to play a fall season.
Lauritano practiced with Hillgrove for about seven weeks and was eligible in two games, but he did not play as a reserve quarterback. Then CHSAA announced a reversed decision to reinstitute a fall football season, and that changed everything. Lauritano sought a return to his home school.
CHSAA granted his request but with “restricted varsity eligibility” under a new bylaw established in May, said Jim Thyfault, Jeffco Public Schools’ executive director of athletics. The pandemic provision allows for incoming transfer students that are seniors to become immediately eligible — but only for the regular season.
Lauritano agreed to those terms upon his return to Colorado. However, his family and Evergreen players argued his situation merited an exception when his team clinched a playoff spot. Lauritano played a major role with 20 touchdowns.
CHSAA — after fielding dozens of emails lobbying for his eligibility — declined the request.
“CHSAA’s bylaws are primarily intended to police bad behavior,” said John Lauritano, Griffin’s father. “Our argument is that Griffin isn’t a Georgia transfer student. He did what he had to do when CHSAA canceled the season. … He’s a kid who has lived in Evergreen and played sports here his entire life.”
Those factors were ultimately not considered when applying stringent CHSAA rules.
“We certainly feel bad for the young man that he’s in that situation, but he understood when he returned from Georgia what the bylaws indicated and the CHSAA commissioner (Rhonda Blanford-Green) was pretty upfront about that,” Thyfault said. “We can’t make up rules on the run. For any transfers, we have to follow the bylaws. That’s what’s been done in this case.”
Evergreen (4-2) enters its first-round matchup against Holy Family (6-0) as significant underdogs, especially without Lauritano. But it won’t tarnish the legacy for a team that first-year Evergreen coach Matt Van Praag described as “a really special group of kids” who endured a six-hour road trip to Durango after consecutive Evergreen games were canceled by COVID-19.
Lauritano is still weighing his options to play football in college with interest from several FCS and high-academic Division-III programs. On Friday night, he’ll serve as part-coach, part-cheerleader as an observer.
“I was definitely grateful to be able to come back and play at Evergreen for the time that I did,” Lauritano said. “It’s just unfortunate that I can’t finish the season out with them.”
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