On the eve of the first football game of the season for Durango High School, the Demons were crushed to find out their opponent will not travel Friday to Durango.
Class 3A No. 1 Pueblo South informed Durango School District 9-R Athletic Director Ryan Knorr that the team was placed in quarantine as of 5 p.m. Thursday because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Colts were scheduled to play at DHS at 6 p.m. Friday. The game will now be ruled a no-contest, and Durango’s six-game regular season scheduled has now been trimmed to five.
However, Knorr said he is working to try to find a game for DHS to play Saturday or even as late as next Tuesday with DHS not scheduled to play again until Saturday, Oct. 17. Teams must play four games to be eligible for the state playoffs this fall. If DHS would have to quarantine at any point in the season and lost two more games, it would not be eligible for the postseason. That is driving Knorr to try to find any opponent he cane for Week 1.
“I will do everything in my power to play a game,” Knorr said. “It won’t be a surprise if another team has an opening come Friday morning. If we have to go on the road, I will find a bus. If a team is willing to come to us, we are ready to host them.
“This is disappointing for everybody involved. So many people were so excited and had committed time and energy to helping us put this event on in such a strange time. I emailed our staff telling them the football players, cheerleaders, dance students, our band, they are all going to need a little extra love.”
Pueblo South head coach Ryan Goddard confirmed Thursday night that all varsity and junior varsity games and practices would be suspended through Oct. 20. District 60 director of communications Dalton Sprouse told The Pueblo Chieftain that the team had one positive COVID-19 case confirmed.
“Both the student cohort and the staff involved with the team, varsity and junior varsity, have been quarantined,” Sprouse said. “They’ll start a period of quarantining, and those individuals are asked to avoid any activities around other people for the time being.
“If they experience any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they would take the next precautions in getting tested.”
Thursday’s news was a bitter sting to the DHS players who eagerly awaited a chance to play the top-ranked Colts in what has become a rivalry.
“It’s very tough and frustrating,” said DHS senior quarterback Jordan Woolverton. “We have been so excited all week and working hard to get back in rhythm of things. To have this happen the night before the game, it’s tough. It’s gut-wrenching for our team. We all know it’s gut-wrenching for South, as well. They wanted to play just as bad. It shows us what can happen if we’re not careful. It’s really something that hits home.”
DHS lost to Pueblo South for the league championship by one point last season before a 21-14 loss to the Colts in last year’s state quarterfinals. Pueblo South went on to finish as state runner-up with a state title loss to Palmer Ridge.
“We wanted to play them again,” Woolverton said. “We lost to them three years in a row and twice last season. Revenge has been on our minds this whole time. We get them the first game on the schedule and then it gets canceled. It’s tough. But we hope to see them in the playoffs. They’re a great team, and we want to play teams of that caliber.”
Originally, the high school football season was postponed until spring because of the novel coronavirus. But the Colorado High School Activities Association and Gov. Jared Polis had worked on revisions to health orders to allow the teams to play this fall. Schools were given a choice of whether to play a fall or spring season, as CHSAA offered both options. Nearly 80% of the state had opted for a fall season.
Pueblo South is not alone this week. Nine teams across Colorado have now had to quarantine because of the virus. No. 1 Pine Creek in Class 4A is in the same boat as the Class 3A top-ranked team.
“Trying to schedule games in a worldwide pandemic has its challenges,” said CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright, who oversees football. “Unfortunately, these two schools are not alone, and more than likely will not be the last in this fall season to be in this difficult position.”
Bright said CHSAA will deem the canceled game a “no-contest” so that a team is not punished for doing the right thing and observing quarantine mandates.
“By offering a no-contest, we relieve schools of the potential pressure of making tough decisions around reporting or not to avoid forfeits,” Bright said. “Secondly, a no-contest affords the ‘healthy’ team the opportunity to find another game, if possible, whereas a forfeit locks in the game in the end. This entire season is about the opportunity to compete, and the no-contest aligns with that point of view.”
Knorr had hoped to find a last-minute opponent for the Demons for Friday night, but the announcement came too late in the week and other schools left without opponents for the same reason had already found new opponents. Battle Mountain was willing to play DHS, but at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Battle Mountain had committed to a game with Ralston Valley.
DHS is scheduled to play at 1 p.m. Oct. 17 in Colorado Springs against Mitchell. Knorr said he hopes to have a new game scheduled before that date by Friday, if possible.
“Crazy. It’s been an experience the last six months,” Woolverton said. “We go from not playing to playing to not playing again. We all feel back down again. But this team is tough. We are built for adversity and ready to go whenever a team can play us. We’re going to battle through it.”
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