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Citing rival’s disrespectful actions, Wakefield drops sports with Middleburg Academy

Tuesday, Feb. 19 | By Peter Brewington
--Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
According to Wakefield School officials it was a boys basketball game that got out of hand in more ways than one.

Wakefield was already losing badly to local rival Middleburg Academy on Thursday, Feb. 14, at Middleburg, when Middleburg coach Craig Boothe reportedly let some of his players wear his sport coat and coach the conclusion of the game, and even call timeouts.

Calling the incident at the end of Middleburg's 108-33 win humiliating and unsportsmanlike, Wakefield officials announced their teams will not play Middleburg Academy for the foreseeable future. The schools share membership in the Cavalier Athletic Conference (CAC).

"I don't see how we can play against them again and not have it be a powder keg," said Wakefield athletic director Paul Sipes.

The decision means Wakefield will forfeit Wednesday's CAC girls basketball championship game against Middleburg Academy, slated to be played at Wakefield's campus in The Plains.

Also, Wakefield will no longer host the CAC boys championship between Middleburg Academy and Massanutten Military, also pre-determined to be hosted by Wakefield.

"We knew the game would be lopsided and that's fine, but the idea that the coach is sitting there and letting a child coach against us demonstrates no respect for our coach and players," said Sipes.

"If he (Boothe) stood up and coached the game to the end, we probably would have complained a little (about running up the score), but to let the kids coach the team made a mockery of the game. We are not circus entertainment. Our players felt humiliated and degraded."

The game was completed without altercation, Sipes said.

Middleburg Academy athletic director Carla Adgate could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday. Sipes said that he was informed by Middleburg that Boothe was suspended for one game. Sipes said Boothe sent an email of apology to Wakefield.

On Monday Wakefield administrators decided to back off all planned sports encounters with their private school neighbor, meaning the Owls will not face Middleburg in girls soccer, boys tennis or boys lacrosse this spring.

However, it's possible the schools could face each other in the upcoming girls basketball state tournament, which Wakefield will not forfeit.

In a release Monday, Wakefield said, "We do not take this action lightly. However, Wakefield’s position is that it is not possible to have a contest with Middleburg Academy with any level of cordiality at this point; and that moving forward, the most prudent path is that of a long term hiatus on competition."

Sipes said he checked with the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) to make sure Wakefield's decision did not have any adverse repercussions for Wakefield.

The CAC has just four members — Wakefield, Middleburg, Massanutten and Shenandoah Valley Christian — which puts conference scheduling and postseason tournament brackets in limbo for spring.

"We recognize that by not playing Middleburg in spring sports we have effectively made the CAC soccer and tennis championships unviable," the school said in a release to its members. "We defer to the remaining teams in the CAC as to whether you want to keep our current game dates, and fully understand if you choose not to play Wakefield in the spring."

Sipes said Wakefield is not planning to withdraw from the CAC, but admitted this move makes Wakefield's continued participation in the CAC unclear.

Wakefield is also a member of the Delaney Athletic Conference, which has long-standing, intense rivalries. Unlike the CAC, the DAC has a sportsmanship grievance process.

"We do not seem to have this problem in the DAC, there's a higher level of camaraderie. We have tough games with Highland but at the end of the day we respect each other," Sipes said.

Wakefield went through a period a few years ago when it did not play Middleburg Academy, which was formely known as Notre Dame Academy.

Middleburg Academy plays a higher level of boys basketball then Wakefield, participating in VISAA Division II. Wakefield, a D-III program, is struggling and was without two starters in last week's loss.

Sipes expects Middleburg and Wakefield to resume contests eventually, but the climate is poor right now.

"My boss (headmaster Peter Quinn) feels this is a demonstration of a difference in philosophy," Sipes said.
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