When a Massachusetts teenager transferred from a private school to a public school in Charlton, he wasn't allowed to play football. But after winning a battle in Worcester Superior Court, he got some good news.
"He said 'put on your cleats you're playing,' and I just started screaming," said Shepherd Hill High School senior Kevin Mensah.
Mensah is thrilled to be able to suit up and take the field in Friday night's game against Wachusett Regional High School, after winning a court battle against the MIAA that had kept him sidelined for the first two games of the season.
"I called my mom, she was happy, she started to cry and I told her not to cry," Mensah said.
Mensah transferred to Shepherd Hill through school choice from Holy Name in Worcester this summer because his mom could no longer afford the private school. After initially refusing, Holy Name eventually signed off on his eligibility form. But the MIAA still refused to allow Mensah to play, saying it could set a precedent of putting athletics over academics.
"If you allow school choice and students to transfer for athletic purposes, you are effectively creating a free agency process," MIAA attorney Geoffrey Bok said Thursday.
In the meantime, Mensah missed the first two games of the season, meaning the Division I college prospect had no film to send to schools that could possibly give him a full scholarship.
"Kevin's asked me a number of times what have I done wrong," said Mensah's coach, Chris Lindstrom. "As an adult, I don't have an answer for him."
Lindstrom sat out the first game in solidarity.
"Sometimes in life, you have to take a stand for something if you think it's right, regardless of consequences," he said. "I think I made that point."
This week, Kevin brought his fight to Worcester Superior Court, where late Friday, a judge ruled he is eligible to play.
"It's been a lesson, just like if you're having a bad time or anything hard, just never give up," Mensah said. "There's always going to be something good at the end."
Mensah's fight is not over. The MIAA has a hearing Thursday over Mensah's waiver to be able to play. The MIAA and its attorneys did not respond to necn's requests for comment.
Superior Court Judge Daniel Wrenn has already scheduled another preliminary injunction hearing in case the MIAA once again rules Mensah ineligible to play.