The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic nixed Gilmer’s home football game against Fannin County last Friday.
FCHS reached out around noon Thursday to inform GHS head coach Kevin Saunders that the Rebels’ football team had been exposed to the virus.
The Fannin program was then “shut down” and entered a 14-day quarantine, according to GHS athletic director and assistant principal Matt Johnson.
While there was news of the game’s revival Thursday evening, it was ultimately canceled.
“At roughly 12:30 p.m. Thursday, I found out from coach Saunders that the game was canceled,” Johnson said last Friday.
“I immediately contacted (Fannin athletic director) David Henson and he confirmed everything. He said it was a COVID related issue. They didn’t have a whole lot of information but said one of the kids on their football team allegedly was positive and that’s where we left it.”
Johnson said there was a buzz throughout the afternoon “from Fannin people” saying “the game was back on.” It did not come from any official sources and he disregarded it.
Later that evening, word of the game’s revival took new life following a text exchange and conversation between Fannin head coach Chad Cheatham and Saunders.
“I was called by the coach at Fannin around 7:20-something and asked if I would like to play the game,” Saunders said. “I said ‘sure’ and did the process of telling my athletic director and everything and we said we’d play. Then he text back and said, ‘I need to check on something, but we’ll play.’”
Johnson noted that opposing coaches discussing games is standard procedure.
“Games are scheduled and rescheduled through coaches,” Johnson said. “When there is a conflict, that’s when athletic directors and school administrators if necessary get involved. According to coach Saunders, and his conversations with coach Cheatham, this game was all ready to go again.”
Decisions needed to be made to ensure referees were booked.
Saunders said, “It just didn’t turn out the way that I wanted it to. I said (to Cheatham) ‘We’ve got to know something by 8:15 p.m. (Thursday night) to let the officials know.’ At about 8:30 he text me and said, ‘We’re just not going to play.’”
Johnson and Henson had conversations about the situation later that night. Johnson was informed that Fannin health officials and its school district’s leaders would meet Friday morning to make a decision on the Rebels’ status.
GHS learned shortly after 10 a.m. Friday that Fannin would not be able to play and the game was officially canceled.
“Allegedly, it impacted more than a few players,” Johnson said. “The quarantine affected their entire team and the coaching staff. But apparently the positive cases extended beyond the team. The bottom line is the game was officially canceled around 10 a.m. this morning with no make-up date for this season.”
The game’s cancellation comes after a preseason full of uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic. Saunders noted the Bobcats are focusing on their next opponent.
“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “You never know when you’re going to play or if you’re going to play. The players are very disappointed, but we’ll just get ready for Murray.
“We talked to them about it and things happen and that’s just the way things are right now. You can only control what you can control. I think Fannin wanted to play but just had too many COVID cases.”
GHS is currently in search of an opponent for its Oct. 2 open date.
Gilmer will host Murray County Friday at 7:30 p.m. Prior to kickoff, GHS senior band members and fall athletes will be recognized.