OYSTER BAY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A high school senior had been excited for the upcoming football season, but was told on a day before the first practice that he cannot play because he is too old at 19.

As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, John Ottaunick is now fighting to get back onto the field at Oyster Bay High School on Long Island.

Ottaunick was adopted at the age of 11, and came to the United States from Siberia in Russia. When he started school in the U.S., he was put back two grades.

“Language barrier is the main reason, I assume, because I couldn’t speak English,” he said.

“At the time, he was 11 years old, and they placed him in the fourth grade,” said John’s father, Christopher Ottaunick.

John Ottaunick said sports helped bridge his age gap with his classmates.

“It was a way I felt equal with my peers, and felt like I was part of something,” he said.

But John Ottaunick said a phone call from the Oyster Bay High School athletic director to his father the night before the first football practice took that all away.

“(The athletic director said), ‘He’s aged out and there’s nothing you can do,’” Christopher Ottaunick said.

John Ottaunick brought him back to his early days in school.

“I was devastated,” he said. “I mean, I felt alone.”

John Ottaunick turned 19 on June 13. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association handbook rules explicitly state that anyone who turns 19 before July 31 of a given year is too old to play.

But the Ottaunicks said the circumstances are simply unfair.

“He’s 5 foot 8, 150 pounds,” said John’s father, Christopher Ottaunick. “We didn’t keep him back a year to bulk him up or get him bigger and stronger.

“These are the kids that they placed him with; that they claim that are his equal in the classroom, and now all of a sudden, after playing all these years — just because of a two-week difference — they said, ‘Well, you can’t be an equal on the football field,” he continued.

CBS 2 tried contacting school officials. The superintendent had no comment.

And with the school’s first football game just days away, John Ottaunick said he is still hoping for the best and still supporting his teammates.

“I just wish I was out there, that’s all,” he said.

And if not for football, John Ottaunick said he hopes maybe for an appeal in time for track season.

The state public high school athletic association said the rules are the rules, and it has had to turn away other 19-year-olds. An appeal process is available to students over the education commissioner’s guidelines.

The family is looking at all its options.

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