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A Cumberland County judge upheld a N.C. High School Athletic Association decision that the Terry Sanford High School football team must forfeit the entire season due to an ineligible player.

The decision came Tuesday after questions about senior defensive back Malichi Mills’ eligibility.

“The tragedy of this whole affair is the large number of players totally innocent prohibited from continuing in the playoffs,” said Cumberland County Judge Jack Thompson, a 1959 graduate of Fayetteville High School, now known as Terry Sanford.

One week ago, the Fayetteville school self-reported the violation to the N.C. High School Athletic Association. That led the NCHSAA to order that the team forfeit its nine wins and give up its playoff berth.

Parents of four senior football players went to Thompson, who a granted a temporary injunction allowing Terry Sanford to play Saturday. The Bulldogs defeated Pine Forest, 49-28, to advance to the second round of the playoffs. They were scheduled to play New Hanover on Friday.