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Standing for the Sabbath: Oakwood Adventist forced to forfeit game for religious observance

For the Oakwood Adventist Academy varsity boys basketball team, upholding the principles of the school’s faith is bigger than the game of basketball.

Following its best season in school history, Oakwood will not be able to play Saturday’s game against Faith Christian for an opportunity to advance to the Class 1A Northeast Regional final, according to reports.

Oakwood, a Huntsville K-12 private school, is scheduled to play in the regional semi-finals at Jacksonville State University at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The school sought to reschedule the game due to Saturday being reserved as the Sabbath for those of the Adventist faith. Adventists observe the Sabbath from Friday’s sunset to Saturday’s sunset, which is 5:31 p.m.

Oakwood asked the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) to move the game to 7:30 p.m., a request which was denied. According to Oakwood athletic director Calvin Morton, the school’s opponent and the teams scheduled for the 7:30 p.m. time slot were willing to make the switch.

“We’re not asking to change a venue, we’re not asking to change a date. We’re just simply asking to change a 4:30 time to a 7:30 time to accommodate our religion and our faith,” Morton told WAFF 48. “We’re just pleading on our behalf to make a reasonable accommodation for a simple time switch.”

Oakwood will reportedly lose 0-2 by forfeit.

When the outlet asked AHSAA for comment, the association stated, “All games at each regional are expected to be played as scheduled. This is the AHSAA’s only statement.”

The school had never made it this far in postseason play. Only a few years ago, Oakwood’s varsity boys basketball program had posted a winless season.

For Raynon Andrews, senior captian of the team, holding true to their faith takes precedence over playing in the historic game.

“When God created the earth, on the seventh day he rested, he calls us to rest on that day and give that day to him,” said Andrews. “I’m not going to play on that day no matter what, because it’s bigger than basketball.”

He added, “People want us to play, they say, ‘just play on Saturday,’ but I got to stick to my faith and stand up for what’s right and believe God will make a way for us to play.”

As of reporting time, no accommodation for Oakwood has been made by league officials.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL