Valdosta's Gabriel Harris ruled ineligible, will appeal

Shane Thomas | The Valdosta Daily TimesValdosta defensive end Gabriel Harris (4) goes through a drill during a spring practice session Saturday, May 7 at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

VALDOSTA – For the second straight year, the Valdosta High football program faces the prospect of another impact player never seeing the field.

As first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, University of Georgia commit Gabriel Harris was ruled ineligible by the Georgia High School Association on Wednesday.

Harris, a four-star defensive end, has been practicing with the Wildcats since the spring after transferring to Valdosta High from Thomas County Central following the 2021 season.

According to the original report by the AJC's Todd Holcomb, the issue is whether or not Harris made what the GHSA deems a bona fide move.

Wednesday's ruling is not foreign to the VHS football program.

Prior to the 2020 season, quarterback Jake Garcia transferred to Valdosta for his senior season after football was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The California product played just one game for the team before eventually being ruled ineligible for having not made a bona fide move with his parents, though Garcia's parents legally separated in order for Garcia and his father to move to Valdosta for the 2020 season.

Despite Garcia being ruled ineligible at Valdosta, the quarterback was allowed to later transfer to Class 7A powerhouse Grayson and help lead the Rams to a state championship.

After the Garcia fallout, the Wildcats and controversial head coach Rush Propst came under fire for recruiting violations that led to a hefty fine, a 2021 postseason ban and five players being ruled ineligible and unable to compete in the GHSA for the entire 2021 season.

Harris and the Valdosta program plan to appeal and the result of the appeal will be heard Aug. 16 – three days before the team's season opener at home against North Miami (Fla.) Aug. 19.

With Harris in the fold along with upcoming junior Eric Brantley and 6-foot-3 defensive lineman Omar White, the Wildcats were expected to have one of the most fearsome and talented defensive lines in the state.

Valdosta head football coach Shelton Felton was not able to be reached for comment.

This story will be updated as it develops.

Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.

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