The Philomath High School football team can put a tally mark in the win column this week, but not because of any heroics on the gridiron. The scheduled opponent, Scio, forfeited because of a COVID issue within its program.
PHS Athletic Director Tony Matta said he received a call from Scio just after 2:30 p.m. Friday.
“They had a student on the football team test positive for COVID,” Matta said.
Philomath coach Alex Firth reacted to the forfeit from both ends of the spectrum, seeing both good and bad from the situation.
“I think the good thing is we do get some people who are a little banged up healthy and hopefully back and able to play,” Firth said. “But it’s also bad because you want to continue to build on what you’ve done prior to this.”
Firth was a coach on Crescent Valley High School’s staff this past spring when the same thing happened, although there was more of a notice of the game cancellation.
“We were able to schedule a game very quickly, but obviously (here), we can’t react in two hours and find another opponent,” Firth said. “But actually, I think this might be a blessing in disguise and gives us a chance for a midseason bye and gives everybody a chance to heal up.”
The Warriors came into this week at 3-1 on the season and were coming off a 41-8 loss at South Umpqua. The team came out of the game with some injuries and other personnel issues — a few serious enough to keep players out of the lineup and a few others that would’ve seen players competing at less than 100%.
“We were going to be missing probably two or three linemen, so in that way, it’s a blessing in disguise,” Firth said. “On the negative side, there was an opportunity for some of the younger kids to come in and play and get more of a full-time opportunity and we miss that. Again, it’s good and it’s bad — I would’ve loved to have given those kids a chance to play.”
Firth said the timing could’ve been worse.
“If it was the week before the playoff or something, it would’ve been worse,” he said. “You want to have momentum going into a playoff but I think now, it’s probably good to see the kids get some rest.”
Philomath does lose a home game, however, and the Warriors only had four games scheduled for Clemens Field this season with five on the road. When the team plays Dayton on Oct. 22 for homecoming, it will be just the team’s second home game. The third home game follows on Oct. 29 against Taft in the regular-season finale and Senior Night.
Scio is 2-2 and would’ve come into the Philomath game after back-to-back victories — 28-0 over Harrisburg and 38-0 over Douglas.
“They’ll contact trace, they’ll start that process and figure out how many kids on the team have to quarantine,” Matta said about the process that Scio is facing, although exact protocols can vary from county to county.
Scio has low numbers in the football program with 18 of the 25 listed on its roster either freshmen or sophomores. Fully vaccinated players don’t have to quarantine and it’s unknown exactly what Scio could be up against, but Matta said his contact at the school indicated that the Loggers may have to forfeit their game next week as well.
Both Matta and Firth said it’s fortunate that the COVID-positive player was identified before the game was played. Otherwise, it could’ve been a season-derailing situation for the Warriors.
“It would’ve been worse if we had played and they had not found out they had a player that had tested positive,” Firth said. “Then we probably would be in a two-week shutdown also.”
Matta said he checked with the Oregon School Activities Association about the forfeit and it does go down as an official game. Therefore, the Warriors cannot try to schedule another opponent this fall.
“Last year, they didn’t care, if anything got canceled, you could get a replacement and do whatever you could to get in as many games as you could,” Matta said. “They specifically said at the AD meeting in the fall this year that a league contest that is canceled due to COVID are forfeits. So you can’t reschedule — it counts toward the (maximum) nine contests.”
Asked about the chances of a junior varsity game being arranged to give younger kids an opportunity to play, Matta said it’s something that’s not off the table. But there are rules in place and it may not be allowed.
“We’ll be communicating with the OSAA and see what we could do … to see if we can play a sub-varsity game,” Matta said. “All options are on the table until they’re not.”
Philomath, now officially 4-1, is scheduled to play Oct. 8 at Willamina.
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