The Gainesville Leopards will not be playing football the next two weeks. Due to a positive lab-confirmed coronavirus test by a player, the entire team of 40 varsity football players along with the JV squad had to be quarantined.
In total, 96 students at Gainesville High School are currently quarantined.
The news came as a shock to the Leopards and head coach James Polk said while he is upset they don’t get to play, he understands why the decision was made to cancel the next two varsity and JV games against Aubrey and Van Alstyne.
“The district is going to do what’s best for the athletes,” Polk said. “It’s disappointing because the kids work hard, but the district is going to do what’s best and put safety first. You want to be able to put into place all the things you worked on during the week and see what happens and hopefully celebrate. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing.”
Close contact, or exposure, is defined as being directly exposed to infectious secretions such as being coughed on while not wearing a mask or face shield or being within six feet for a cumulative duration of 15 minutes while not wearing a mask or face shield at any time in the past 14 days at the same time the person infected was contagious.
Someone is considered contagious beginning 48 hours before symptoms appear.
GISD superintendent DesMontes Stewart said after doing contact tracing, it became clear the steps the district had to take to protect everyone involved.
“We have protocol we follow whether it’s an athlete or a student,” Stewart said. “We had to see who had contact with the students and then we had to begin the process of quarantining and because he’s a football player, they are interacting very closely. Because we are worried about the safety of not only our team, but the other team, the decision was made to cancel this week’s game.”
Stewart said it was tough to have to cancel the next two games.
“You want the players and coaches to enjoy a full season, but going into the season, we knew this was a possibility that this could happen,” Stewart said. “Although I do sympathize about the decision that was made, we have to keep the safety of the kids, coaches and our families at the forefront. We have to do our part of minimizing a potential spread. There is no doubt in my mind that we’ll resume playing football, but this is an obstacle that we’ve got to overcome to make sure we are all safe.”
Polk agreed with Stewart, saying the Leopards knew this was a possibility. Regardless, Polk said his team was very disappointed.
The Leopards’ next game will be Sept. 25 against Mineral Wells and Polk said the team will start preparing for it immediately.
“We’re going to take the same approach as the summer and try to get ready for Mineral Wells,” Polk said. “We’ll send out videos throughout the week. They’ve all got Hudl. We’ll do some Zoom meetings with them and look at the light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t just sit here and dwell on it. The positive is we still get to play.
“For the seniors, every game matters, but district determines whether you move forward or not. We’ll be at a disadvantage because we missed games. The positives are we get to play and we should be fully healed and recovered.”
Personally for Polk, he said it would be difficult being away from the team for two weeks.
“I like seeing my kids as much as I can because that’s why I got into this profession,” Polk said. “We’ll try to keep as much communication with them as possible and we’ll try to do that through Hudl and Zoom. I feel even more confident because we’ve already been able to get some practice in and they understand most everything.”
Although it was a letdown to cancel the next two games, Polk is trying to look on the bright side that the season hasn’t been canceled.
“We’re on a break,” Polk said. “We get to have a season and try to compete for a playoff spot.”
Reach Patrick Hayslip at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip