For the love of the game

Senior Jacob Burke practices every day, but ineligible to play on Friday nights


By Nick Dorogy, Gazebo Staff Writer

Senior Jacob Burke has been one of the most influential players on Stratford’s football team this season

He hasn’t scored any touchdowns or made any game-saving tackles. In fact, Burke has not lined up for a single snap this season, which continues in the Class A state playoffs this Friday night against Tattnall Square.

Burke was born in England, and his family moved to Ohio when he was 6.  When his father was transferred to Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, he enrolled at Stratford as a sophomore.

Because his parents had been unsure whether they would remain in the U.S., Burke complied with British schooling standards. So when his family moved to Georgia, Burke was asked to repeat the 10th grade.

He agreed without complaint.

After playing football his freshman and sophomore years in Ohio, Burke made the varsity roster in both his sophomore and junior year at Stratford.

Burke was promoted to a starter his junior year and became a crucial part of the offensive line.

However, in order for Burke to play his senior year, Stratford had to appeal to the Georgia High School Association to allow him a fifth year of eligibility.

The ruling was not based on Burke’s age – he turned 18 on October 30 – but rather that he had exhausted his eligibility by playing  varsity football for four years.

When the decision came back, Burke and his family were shocked to learn that his appeal was denied and he was barred from playing his senior year.

“I thought that it was very unfair. Not only to me, but to Coach (Mark) Farriba and my parents who put together a great appeal that should’ve been accepted,” Burke said.

Coach Farriba presented Burke with two options. He could either quit football and carry on life as a senior. Or he could practice everyday with the team and still be ineligible to play on Friday nights.

Burke chose to practice.

“It’s all been him. His commitment. His desire. There is really very little in it for him. My hats off to him. He is really funny guy and he’s great to coach,” Farriba said.

Burke has not missed a practice this year. He said he practices for his teammates.

“I keep practicing because I love being around the guys on the team and honestly want to help them get better,” he said.

“The most special thing about being on the team is the family atmosphere. No matter what someone’s beliefs, race, or reputation is, you are accepted into the family and everyone treats each other with respect.

“Also, hitting people in practice is a great way to channel the frustration of school.”