A U.S. District judge ruled Friday morning, hours before the state championship game, that the suspension of Chatfield quarterback Sam Backer will stand.
Judge Ann D. Montgomery denied his family's request to allow him to play in the state championship game while he appealed the game officials' ruling, the Rochester Post Bulletin reported.
Backer, a junior, was suspended because of two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties in the Class 2A semifinal victory over Barnesville.
Chatfield will play West Central Area/Ashby at 1 p.m. Friday in the Class 2A championship game.
"These kids are resilient, and they're very competitive in everything they do," coach Jeff Johnson said. "But you can't just replace a special talent like Sam Backer. Everyone is going to need to take a couple of extra steps, do a little bit more."
Backer was a running back before the season but stepped in when a knee injury sidelined the starting QB early. He rushed for more than 2,300 yards and helped the Gophers to 11 straight victories heading into the state semifinal.
Backer was disqualified from the rest of the semifinal when he drew his second unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in the third quarter. By rule, that second foul leads to automatic disqualification for the remainder of the game along with the next one.
His father, Scott, hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit in hopes of getting a U.S. District Court judge to lift the suspension.
Sophomore Parker Delaney took over at quarterback in the semifinal and led Chatfield with a pair of touchdown passes, the last one coming with just 1:26 left in the game. Johnson said Delaney would be the starter in the final.
"He's a pretty stoic kid," Johnson said. "He doesn't really wear his emotions on his sleeve. His personality helped him in that situation."
Chatfield's dominance this season has played a role in Delaney's comfort level. Because the team won so many games by large margins, Delaney played significant minutes in relief of Backer. That, Johnson confirmed, helped develop Delaney's game.
"He's a 10th-grader, so we're going to have to assume he's going to make his fair share of mistakes, but he's shown great composure," Johnson said. "We're going to have to do some things to simplify the playbook for him, but the biggest thing will be to keep his confidence up. We've got some really, really competitive kids. This will be their chance to rise up and show how good of a football team we are."