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Suspension overturned for Arizona high school football player who praised God

PHOENIX — An Arizona high school football player who was ejected when he pointed to the sky after a touchdown on Friday will be permitted to play in this week’s playoff game, officials said.

Dysart High School’s Pedro Banda was ejected from the fourth quarter of a game against Glendale High School after referees ruled his touchdown celebration was excessive.

Because of the ejection, Banda was ruled ineligible from his team’s upcoming playoff game.

In a Monday statement, the Arizona Interscholastic Association said Banda was the subject of several penalties during the game, including one for unsportsmanlike conduct in the first quarter. The culmination of penalties led to his ejection, per AIA rules.

“Within the context of the game, we understand the mindset of the officials,” Gary Whelchel, state commissioner of officials, said in a release. “It was a cumulative effect and the student-players gesture precipitated an additional flag for what they perceived as taunting, not as a faith gesture.”

On Tuesday, the AIA overturned Banda’s ejection. The organization said a combination of game film and a meeting with Banda was enough to overturn the call.

Banda and his Dysart teammates are scheduled to play Snowflake High School in the first round of the playoffs at 6 p.m. Saturday.

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