The most anticipated regular-season game of the city's high school football season is off for a second time, and Scott County's campaign is in a holding pattern, if not jeopardy of a premature end.
SC officially entered a two-week quarantine because of connection with a COVID-19 case on Tuesday, meaning that a contest with Class 5A district rival Frederick Douglass once again cannot be played.
The Cardinals (6-0), who have a bye next Friday, hope to make it back for the playoffs.
“That's the best-case scenario, if moving forward things remain as is,” SC coach Jim McKee said. “There can always be follow-up to this particular thing, as you know. There's no chance where this is a false positive or this and that, and it all goes away and we're back practicing Thursday. There's no chance of that at all.”
McKee held a Zoom meeting with the parents to officially deliver the news Tuesday night.
“Any misinformation out there is not a good thing, so we wanted to make sure they knew exactly what was going on,” McKee said.
The dominoes had been tumbling in the Cardinals' camp for several days.
Scott County freshman football shut down late last week after possible exposure to the virus in a game against Madison Southern.
Last Friday's varsity game against Ballard was canceled due to the high incidence rate of cases in Jefferson County. McKee made overtures at filling the void on the schedule before choosing to have the Cardinals take the week off.
SC withdrew from the initially scheduled game against Douglass on Sept. 25. At the time, administration cited KHSAA recommendations not to host or travel to a team within a “red zone” county on the COVID-19 incidence rate map.
Fayette County has been out of that status, shaded orange, for more than two weeks. Scott County briefly went red Monday before returning to orange (22.3 average daily cases per 100,000 population) on Tuesday.
On Monday, school officials said that they were advised that the county's spike was not primarily linked to children, keeping the door open that SC and Douglass might be able to play this week.
Now, the dream match-up of this oft-nightmarish season can't happen until Nov. 20.
That's when the two programs would still be on track to meet in the second round of the playoffs, provided there are no additional disruptions to the schedule.
“Our focus right now is number one, the health and safety of our players and our staff,” McKee said. “Number two, we are hopeful of a potential return to practice and the ability to play in the first round of the playoffs.”
Of course, that is also far an ideal arrangement in terms of health or continuity.
“You take off 14 days. If it's freshman or JV game with shortened quarters, couple days of practice, you're ready to roll,” McKee said. “Varsity football is a little different. But our plan as of right now if nothing changes, we should be able to play in the first round of the playoffs.”
KHSAA criteria put into place due to the likelihood of COVID postponements awards the “win” for any canceled regular-season district game to the team with the higher RPI computer ranking.
Because of its undefeated record, SC likely would hold that edge. Unofficially, that means the Cardinals wll be the top seed in the playoffs and host Grant County on Nov. 13, while Great Crossing (3-3) is likely to be on the road at Frederick Douglass (4-1).
If both higher seeds win, Douglass would then make the long-awaited trip to Birds' Nest Stadium a week later.
McKee didn't wish to address that scenario at this point.
“I don't think there's any way right now to for sure determine that until the season plays out,” he said. “Anything that I would try to say on that would be strictly speculation.”
The outspoken, venerable McKee – next season will make a quarter century at the helm – has consistently preached to his team all season to treat every game as if it might be the last.
On average, a double-digit number of games have been canceled around the state each week.
“In everything in life, you can take the old adage of half-empty and half-full,” McKee said. “In June or July when we were starting to crank this thing up, if somebody said, 'Hey, you get to play seven freshman games, get to play five JV games, get to play six varsity games,' we would say you know what? We survived the year, because we sowed the necessary seeds for the program to continue when the pandemic is whipped. We have been able to do that.”
McKee cited the development of such seniors as quarterback Zane Patton, defensive tackle Kevin Herbert and tight end Kam Lay, as well as the potential all-state seasons by multi-year starters Campton Martin and Jonathan Berry, as highlights if the Cards for some reason can't return to the field.
“We're not the only team in the state that's gone through this,” McKee said. “We won't be the first. We won't be the last. Every coach and every player, you're just one phone call away from this situation.”
GC switches to away date at Oldham County
Great Crossing has encountered a similar revolving door with its schedule. Other than a two-week quarantine for its freshmen at the start of the season, however, the Warhawks have been unscathed.
GC withdrew from its game with Douglass two weeks ago after published reports of a confirmed COVID case in the Broncos' camp, opting instead to play at Western Hills.
The Warhawks were scheduled to host Henry Clay this week, but that game also has been canceled for non-viral reasons.
Instead, Great Crossing will play at Class 6A Oldham County on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. The winner will improve above the .500 mark on the season.
“We are blessed to have another opportunity to play this great game,” GC coach Ricky Bowling said.