CONWAY — After having to miss its last game due to multiple COVID-19 cases, the Kennett High football team is optimistic it will return to the gridiron to play this week’s scheduled opponent Sanborn. However, it will be a few days later than originally planned.
The Eagles had been slated to host the Indians this Friday, but with the hometown flock in COVID-19 protocol, the game has been moved to Monday at 5 p.m. at Gary Millen Stadium.
KHS Athletic Director Neal Weaver sent out an email Thursday morning to the officials’ assignor, Conway police and fire, medical staff, media, press box personnel, boosters, ticket takers, chain gang, grounds/custodian crew, game supervision workers, administrators and the band/dance team letting them know the status of the game.
The originally scheduled junior varsity game with Sanborn in Kingston on Monday has been canceled.
Superintendent Kevin Richard, who is the longtime announcer at home football games, said the state Department of Health has identified the five positive football cases as a cluster.
“That means that there’s a strong likelihood connection that because of an activity that things occurred and things are spreading. It wasn’t like there was only one case and then four cases all came at the same time,” said Richard. “But over the past five, six days, there have been four or five cases that took place.”
Weaver said contact tracing led officials to believe the cluster originated among the JV players who participated in a game in Plymouth on Oct. 4.
Athletes who test positive for the virus are unable to practice or play in games until at least 10 days from the last possible exposure. In this case, Friday marks day 10.
Members of the varsity football team along with anyone who can produce a negative COVID-19 test can return to the playing field in small groups for practice on Saturday and Sunday.
There are 53 boys out for the team this fal,l including a record 23 freshmen, along with 15 juniors, eight seniors and seven sophomores.
Seniors on this year’s team include Camden Bailey, Tanner Bennett, Remmy Chaput, Hunter Daggett, TJ Holland, Isaiah Mojica, Brady Robitaille and Colin Sheldon.
As of Thursday, Weaver said all of the team’s starters except one are expected to be available for Monday’s game.
“We might be a little short in the depth department, but at least it looks like we’ll play,” Weaver said.
Kennett (1-4) last played on Homecoming Weekend on Oct. 1 when hosted rival Plymouth (5-1) in front of the largest crowd since the pandemic began, with 1,000 spectators on hand. The Eagles played their best half of football in the first two quarters and went to the halftime break in front 14-13, but the Bobcats reeled off the final 17 points to leave Eagles’ Way with a 30-14 victory.
KHS had been scheduled to travel to Belmont-Gilford (3-2) last Saturday but the game was canceled the night before due to the positive cases among the boys in black and white.
“It’s not just about the football team, not just about athletics; we’re looking at it from the whole school’s perspective and keeping everyone safe,” Weaver stated Tuesday, emphasizing that the top priority is the students’ health and keeping them in school.
Weaver said the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled Wednesday that games not played due to COVID-19 are recorded as “no played contest” on the team’s records.
At this point, Weaver said it is unlikely the game will be rescheduled over the next few weeks.
“We may be able to schedule an exhibition game if both teams don’t make the playoffs and are open to the idea after the season,” Weaver said.
Under the current COVID-19 protocol for SAU 9, only those students who have tested positive are required to quarantine at home. Others who have possibly been in close contact don’t have to quarantine, but Richard said he emphasizes continual testing and care.
“I always encourage parents to get their students tested. It’s a key component to mitigating the pandemic’s impact,” Richard stated.
After Sanborn, Kennett has two games remaining on its nine-game regular-season schedule. The Eagles are slated to travel to Concord to play Pembroke (1-5) on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 2:30 p.m., and finish up hosting rival Kingswood (0-6) in the annual Carroll County Championship Game on Friday, Oct. 29, at 7 p.m.
Richard said Thursday there have been more than 10 positive cases of the virus this week, including seven alone at the high school, increasing the likelihood that this will mark the most cases in a single week in the school district.
Reporter Rachel Sharples contributed to this story.