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MIAA vote gives Attleboro boys’ soccer team second chance

FRANKLIN — Nine members voted that rules are rules and Attleboro shouldn't be allowed into the MIAA boys’ soccer tournament. Nine voted kids shouldn’t be punished for the mistakes of an adult.

That left it up to St. John’s Prep principal and MIAA Board of Directors president Keith Crowley to cast the deciding vote. When Crowley said yes to the motion to allow Attleboro into the tournament despite seven forfeits and a 2-10-4 record, the seven members of the Blue Bombardiers team in the audience embraced and celebrated a second chance.

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Thursday’s board meeting was quick and uneventful until item No. 11. In late September, Attleboro athletic director Mark Houle realized he had made a mistake. Jose Munguia, a 19-year-old from Equador who enrolled at Attleboro High in November 2011 as a sophomore, was playing soccer without ever having received a required waiver for being over 19.

Houle didn’t duck responsibility.

“I failed my administration and the student-athletes of Attleboro High School. I made a mistake,” said Houle. “I felt numb talking to the team that day. It was my fault.”

Houle immediately reported the error and Attleboro forfeited seven games, making it impossible for the Division 1 South program to make the tournament. Munguia was granted a waiver by the Eligibility Review Board and was back on the field, but the damage was done. But led by principal Bill Runey, Attleboro asked the board for a second chance.

“Because of a mistake by the administration at Attleboro High School we have seven forfeits and mathematically we can’t qualify. Had we done our job we would not be here today. We’re asking that we be added to the state tournament.”

The discussion that followed went between concern for setting a bad precedent to the notion of punishing kids for something they didn’t do. With the seven players, including Munguia, looking on, the vote was taken. There was a brief ‘now what?’ moment after the 9-9 total was announced before, by rule, the president gets to cast the deciding vote. Crowley said yes and smiles replaced the concerned looks.

“I think the boys rallied around each other and I’m very proud of their efforts,” said Houle. “I’m glad the board was able to hear us out and see that there was no malice. It was a true mistake and we’re able to make the state tournament.”

It’s expected that Attleboro will be seeded last in the Division 1 South field. That means a probable first-round matchup with New Bedford. Board member and New Bedford athletic director Mike Correia had no problem with that.

“We’d have no problem playing that game what-so-ever,’’ said Correia, who praised Attleboro’s administration and voted to let them into the tournament.

.   .   .

The meeting started with a moment of silence for Colleen Ritzer, the Danvers teacher killed earlier this week. Crowley attended the candlelight vigil held Wednesday night . . . Transparency is becoming a frequently used work in Franklin and on the organization’s website. In an effort to increase transparency in everything they do, Executive Director Bill Gaine will head to Beacon Hill to speak with lawmakers November 12. That same day the MIAA will hold a Media Day in Franklin.

Bob Holmes can be reached at rholmes@globe.com
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