RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — One of the marquee high school football playoff games scheduled for this weekend isn’t going to happen after a player tested positive for COVID-19.
Highland Springs was supposed to take on Manchester in the Region 5B championship game on Saturday afternoon at Varina High School, but because of the positive test, the Virginia High School League declared the game a no contest and awarded the Springers the region title. Manchester’s spring season came to an end.
“You can control so many variables on Friday nights, what teams throw at you, you can make adjustments. This is one of those things that you have no control over,” Manchester head coach Tom Hall told 8Sports Blitz on Tuesday.
Manchester isn’t the only high school program that’s had a playoff game affected because of coronavirus. But Hall said he and his staff did all they could to prepare his players for the likelihood that it could happen.
“We’re fortunate to play football, but you never know when your time is up and when your last play is going to be, so make every moment count” he said. “Our players bought into that.”
Despite that mindset, Hall said they thought they were clear of the COVID-19 hurdle going into this week. But when the player came back with a positive test and the game was called, he said it was a real punch in the gut.
“It’s like getting hit in the chest with a sledgehammer,” he said. “Our kids were really growing up in front of our eyes, and we were just really proud of how they responded to all the adversity and challenges they’ve had not just this season but this whole year from last March to right now. It’s a tribute to their character and their families.”
The news means the high school careers of the seniors on the team are officially over. Not going out the way anybody wanted, and facing an extra bit of adversity, Hall said the seniors moving on will be able to take this experience with them no matter where they go.
“That’s going to be life lessons that carry them on to be great fathers and husbands and great men in society, and that’s what it’s all about,” Hall said.
For Highland Springs head coach Loren Johnson, he told 8Sports Blitz this certainly was not the way he and his team wanted to advance to the Class 5 state semifinals.
“This initial reaction was kind of like a sigh, but not a sigh of relief,” he said. “It was more like take a deep breath and process it. You really don’t know what to say because the competitor in me really wants to play.”
Johnson said he did get to speak to Hall shortly after the news of the game’s cancellation broke. Johnson said his heart went out to Hall and his team for how their season came to an end, but the Manchester head coach did his best to offer encouragement to Johnson and his Springers program.
“It was sorrow and a mixed bag of emotions,” Johnson said. “I want to compete and I want to play. But at this point, Tom put it in perspective for me. He said we have to represent for the region.”
The VHSL will announce next week the pairings, sites, dates and times of the state semifinal games. Stay with 8Sports Blitz for updates.