SIGNAL MOUNTAIN, HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) - Signal Mountain High School Senior Running back Tim McClendon can't even dress out since the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) ruled him ineligible.

But he considers himself as much a Signal Mountain Eagle, as when he scored 15 touchdowns in first seven games.

"I felt down in Lakeview (Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School) they just kind of used me--used me for my athletic abilities," McClendon tells Channel 3 Eyewitness News in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

"Here, I feel at home."

The critical question: how did Signal Mountain become home, given that his mother's home address zones him for Brainerd High School?

Specifically, how did McClendon, and Shane Roberson, the former Lakeview assistant coach McClendon describes as a 'father figure' and mentor, both wind up across the state line and up Signal Mountain this season?

"Shane always tells me what to do what not to do," McClendon says.

"I called him about ten times. Mom kept blowing up the phone saying 'Shane, we've got to get him up there."

Signal Mountain is the fifth high school McClendon has attended since freshman year. It accepted McClendon as a 'hardship academic transfer', according to principal Dr. Tom McCullough.

"I don't want people to think I came here just to play football," McClendon says, "I came here to get an education and be a better person in life."

Dr. McCullough maintains that academic qualifications should make McClendon eligible athletically, automatically.

In ruling McClendon ineligible, the TSSAA has stripped Signal Mountain of six victories. Its record is now 1-2, making it highly unlikely the Eagles will make the playoffs, much less defend their state 4A football championship.

Signal Mountain will appeal the TSSAA sanctions at a hearing in Murfreesboro Thursday.

"The rules are vague," he says, "that vagueness is what led us to, number one, check on the (TSSAA) form that he is in our territory, and number two, allows us to appeal. If it was cut and dried there is no appeal."

The TSSAA's position is that the rules make no distinction between 'territory' and 'school zone' according to Executive Director Bernard Childress.

"Following the spirit of the rules matters as much as the letter," Childress says.

Article II, Section 13(b) of the TSSAA bylaws states that "a student who transfers as a result of change of residence is ineligible unless his/her old residence is outside the territory of the new school and the new residence is both outside the territory of the old school and inside the territory of the new school."

Neither the TSSAA nor Signal Mountain High School has allowed Eyewitness News to view McClendon's Application for Eligibility.

But TSSAA investigators claim that those documents list a home address for McClendon's mother in Rossville, GA, while McClendon played for Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe.

The problem: "statements were made by Coach Shane Roberson which indicated Tim mother continued to maintain her residence in Chattanooga last year", according to the TSSAA's letter of sanction dated October 7.

Eyewitness News has been unable to reach Coach Shane Roberson for comment, but McClendon says the explanation is simple.

"I moved in with somebody else (while I was in Lakeview)," he tells Eyewitness News. "It was another relative."

"We stand on what was submitted to the TSSAA," says McClendon's attorney Clancy Covert.

"You'll find out our position at the hearing Thursday."