CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Martinsburg's quest for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Class AAA state championship has become more of a challenge.
The Secondary School Activities Commission has ruled Bulldogs senior quarterback Malique Watkins ineligible, citing rule 127-2-5.3.a, which states that "A student held back one year on (sic) sixth, seventh, or eighth grade without failing shall lose the fourth year of eligibility after entering ninth grade."
WRNR radio, based in Martinsburg, reported Friday night that Watkins' eligibility had been called into question based upon a claim that he participated in high school football as an eighth-grader at St. James School in Hagerstown, Md. Watkins played as a freshman at Hedgesville High School before he transferred to Martinsburg.
SSAC Executive Director Gary Ray followed his long-held policy of not specifically addressing investigations regarding student-athletes when asked about the issue Monday.
"I can say that there is a situation with a student at Martinsburg High School right now, but I won't breach the confidentiality of a student-athlete to go into specifics," Ray said.
Watkins starred in the Bulldogs' 28-21 win over Morgantown last week, running for 277 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries. The quarterback, who was a starting wide receiver for Martinsburg last year during their run to a third consecutive state championship, had separated his shoulder a week earlier in a 35-34 loss to Leesburg (Va.) Tuscarora.
Watkins leads the Bulldogs (4-1) with 762 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. The team is ranked No. 1 in the latest Daily Mail Class AAA poll.
A hearing in search of permanent injunctive relief is scheduled in the 23rd Circuit Court, with the judge originally assigned to the case already recused from hearing the matter. Gray Silver III, to whom the case had been assigned, is a graduate of Martinsburg High School. Christopher C. Wilkes will hear it instead. The (Martinsburg) Journal reported early Tuesday that the case will be resumed at 11 a.m. Friday.