Mervo High School senior defensive-end Khalil Speaks was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, ejected from the game and is now at risk, pending appeal, of suspension from the upcoming state championship game over what his father describes as an “aggressive call.”

By J.J. McQueen
Special to the AFRO

In a game that praises the aggressive nature of boys and men, one would believe that the scope of how it’s judged would be equal to all who play it. That ideal was called into question during the last few minutes of the Mervo-Sherwood high school 2021 semi-final playoff game. Late in the fourth quarter, Mervo senior defensive-end Khalil Speaks made a routine hit on the Sherwood quarterback as he released the ball for a pass outside of the pocket. 

Under the previous letter of football rules, this would have been ruled great play. However, with new player protection regulations and observations, the consequences are far different. So much so, that the referee’s judgement and harsh punishment to their call is now in question. 

Speaks was not only flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, but was also ejected from the game and suspended (pending appeal at the time of this writing) for the upcoming state championship game on Dec. 2. The senior standout defensive end is among the senior team leaders that were tapped to help fill the void of their fallen teammate Elijah Gorham, who died earlier in October due to a game-related brain injury. Speaks is known as being an outgoing student-athlete with numerous college scholarship offers. Already a NCAA qualifier, Speaks is also being recruited as a top prospect by HBCU Bowie State University, who’s currently in the CIAA quarterfinal college playoffs, and boasts a number of other college offers.   

The AFRO spoke with Speak’s father who said he understands the rules, but can’t quite wrap his head around the repercussions of the play. “I never saw it as something that could possibly be the end of my son’s high school football career with all that he and his teammates have been through this year. My son has 16 sacks on the season and this is the first penalty that he’s gotten. I don’t want to see his career end over an aggressive call. He came back for an extra year due to COVID and not having a season last year. He’s a good kid and deserves fair treatment.”

Onlookers at the game are also questioning whether the location of Sherwood High School (Ellicott City) influenced the official’s judgement.

Historically and geographically speaking, these scenarios tend to show themselves much different during playoff times. They often leave questions as to whether the games are being judged based on location and influence of the affluent vs player safety regulations. 

There are talks of Mervo’s Athletic Director and Head Football Coach, Patrick Nixon, meeting with the Baltimore High School Athletic Commissioner in an effort to appeal the ruling prior to the state championship game. A final decision is still pending, while the fate of Speak’s football career hangs in the balance.

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