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Blystone family drops case seeking eligibility at Washington

| Monday, Oct. 14, 2013, 4:36 p.m.

The battle over Zach Blystone's eligibility dates back to the summer.

It includes WPIAL and PIAA hearings and appeals.

The Washington School Board has gotten involved, backing and then halting Blystone's efforts to play for the football team, and the story even aired on the local news after Blystone and his attorney obtained an injunction.

Yet after more than 70 days, Blystone and his family dropped their case Monday roughly 24 hours before a hearing in front of Common Pleas Judge John F. DiSalle at the Washington County Courthouse.

“The injunction that we were able to obtain no longer served the purpose that we wanted it to serve,” Blystone family attorney Joe Francis said, explaining why the family dropped the case.

“When your own school is making statements that your case is no good, it puts a lot of pressure on this boy and his family. And that was getting to be too great.”

Though Zach Blystone is a 6-foot-3, 260-pound lineman, his family contends leaving Charleroi had nothing to do with sports.

Part of the Blystones' property was seized by PennDOT through eminent domain, which the Blystones said gave them the financial flexibility to move.

They also argued it was closer to Zach's father's job in Claysville and put Zach in a school that fit his learning needs.

Charleroi argued that Blystone left because of football, and the WPIAL and PIAA supported that through numerous hearings and appeals.

Part of the reason the Blystones failed to win the argument was a paper trail that Zach's mother, Corrina, left behind, one that demonstrated previous contact with Washington's coaches.

Corrina Blystone referred comment to Francis.

“It has been a long ordeal,” Charleroi athletic director Bill Wiltz said. “It's been going on now since July and has been tough on everyone.”

Wiltz said he feels sorry for the student who chose to leave Charleroi, saying the district never sought to punish the child, merely to uphold the spirit of the WPIAL and PIAA bylaws.

“For us, it was never about the kid,” Wiltz said. “It was about kids can't be allowed to just go to school wherever they want to. You are supposed to go to school where you live.”

Blystone played in a 50-14 win at Brownsville in Week 6. That game could end up as a forfeit for Washington (6-1, 6-1), though that's up to the WPIAL, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said.

A one-game suspension could also be levied on Blystone in 2014.

Francis said he requested his client lose no more eligibility but had not received an answer from the PIAA by press time.

Staff writer Jeff Oliver contributed. Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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