YAMHILL, Ore. — What was supposed to be a triumph turned out to be disappointment for the Yamhill-Carlton Tigers football team, at no fault of their own.
A year after going 0-8 at the 4A level, the team was moved down to 3A.
They won their first game convincingly, but that taste of victory was short-lived.
"As a leader, I try to stay positive at all times, it's hard when you're 2-4 and things start to turn south and we knew we had three winnable games, including senior night," said head coach Brennon Mossholder.
They ended up winning all three of those games, finishing the season 5-4. The Tigers hadn't had a winning season since 2007.
When the playoff brackets were released on Oct. 27, the Tigers didn't make it. The team turned in their gear and moved on.
On Oct. 31, the Oregon School Activities Association noticed a mistake that was made in the rankings. Someone inputting another team's forfeit made the mistake and gave it to Yamhill-Carlton, ultimately affecting their final ranking.
OSAA officials immediately called the school to let them know what had happened, but that it was too late to adjust the playoff bracket. In a letter sent to the school, it stated that with only two days to prepare for a game it would be unfair to the players. Players like senior Decker Richmond.
"We could've had another game, a playoff game. I've never played in the playoffs before, that would've been our playoff game," said Richmond. "We could forever say, 'Yeah, we played in the playoffs', but now never playing in a playoff game. I can say we were gonna make it, but never did it."
"The initial thought was I was mad" said senior Rey Risch. "But then once we realized there was good things to take out of it, winning record in a decade, it's good stuff. The three-game win streak, there's positives to get out of it, instead of being straight negative."
Six seniors ended up missing their final chance to play in the playoffs, effectively ending their high school football career.
"Those six young men, most of them are three-sport athletes, have never made the playoffs," coach Mossholder said. "They lost that opportunity and it says they made it on paper, they lost that atmosphere that they're never going to get to experience."
But similarly to Risch, coach Mossholder is keeping the positive of the season in mind.
"Sure, we would've loved to play a playoff game, but finishing with a winning record, finishing with a three-game win streak. We're still looking at this as a positive, not a negative."
OSAA executive director Peter Weber said the organization has taken steps to prevent something like this from happening again. Every team that makes the playoffs gets a participation certificate.
Weber knows this doesn't make up for what happened, writing in a letter to the school, "No words can express my personal regrets in reporting this to you. While we are all subject to mistakes, this human error should not have occurred and when it did, should have been noticed and corrected. Regrettably it was not."