Football player hopes lawsuit will lead to appeals process in MSHSL

A Twin Cities metro family is suing the Minnesota State High School League after their son was suspended for the rest of the season for allegedly making an illegal hit during a football game. 

Marco Cavallaro is senior at East Ridge High School in Woodbury. The standout defensive player made a block in his last regular season game that resulted in a career-ending ejection. 

Cavallaro was penalized for targeting, which means the referees believe he took aim or made contact above his opponent’s shoulders. But, he said he did nothing of the sort. 

“It was a hard hit and it didn’t look the best but it was a clean hit as far as where I hit him,” Cavallaro said. 

Cavallaro is being recruited to play college football. Now, he and his family are concerned that one official’s call on a football game—good or bad—can have a long-lasting impact on a player’s football career, and yet the league does not have an appeal process.

“There should be a way to review something especially when it has the consequences that is has on this one,” Amanda said. 

Cavallaro was ejected and cannot play the next four games. He missed the first playoff game and will miss the next one as well. 

“Targeting is dangerous for both the offense and defensive player,” said Marco’s mom, Amanda Cavallaro. “It’s obviously not right and I agree with that rule but this was not a targeting offense and this was not a head hit.”

Marco’s parents said when you zoom in and freeze the video of the play, you see their son led with his shoulder and hit the player in the chest.

They took the video to the MSHSL for review, but they refused to watch it.

In a statement to Fox 9, the MSHSL executive director said, “The Minnesota State High School League's bylaw language clearly states, ‘the decisions of contest officials are final’ and therefore there is no option for appeal.”

“I mean I can see how a ref can make that call,” Amanda said. “It’s a split second decision. But, those aren’t always right.”

The family is taking the league to court, hoping not only to get their son's case reviewed, but also to make way for an appeals process and give other young athletes an avenue to challenge a call.

Marco will find out Tuesday whether a judge grants an injunction allowing him to play in the game Friday.

“I just want to be able to finish my senior season,” he said. 

Ultimately, it will be up to the family whether they take this far enough in the legal process for a judge’s decision to set a precedent for other Minnesota high school athletes.