Player barred from game but declared state champ

Posted at 12:57 PM, Dec 08, 2014
and last updated 2015-11-28 23:33:52-05

Canisius High School Senior James Thomas wasn't allowed to play in the State Championship Game this past Sunday, but he was still crowned a state champion.

Thomas was ejected from a game against Timon after being accused of throwing a punch, but his family and attorney say video of the play shows he never actually threw one. Thomas' father admits his son broke the rule by grabbing an opponent's facemask, but he says his son never threw a punch, and that other coaches who have watched the video agree with him.

"It's unanimous that there was no punch thrown by my son," said James Cunningham.

Thomas was removed from the Timon game and banned from the State Championship game this past Sunday. Since the video of the play came out, the league changed the call, saying Thomas didn't throw a punch but did commit "flagrant misconduct" on the play.

His father, concerned potential college coaches would not get to see him play, had hoped to see Thomas participate in Sunday's game.

"This is the biggest stage in high school, and he is now ineligible. Based on a punch he never did," said Cunningham.

Though Thomas didn't end up getting to play, in a post on Facebook, Cunningham says his son was crowned a state champion. He thanked the many people who came forward who support his son and his family.

"I would like to thank all of you that helped our movement in the reinstatement of my son #58 James Thomas. Your relentless social media activity has caused a great deal of waves, and while my #58 was never reinstated for the game, he was crowned state champion! As of 2pm yesterday, all of the mishandling by our league leadership and all of the wrong doings by the referee has all been tossed in the sea of forgetfulness; moreover, we forgive you as well," he wrote.