Football playoffs postponed one week due to COVID-19 concerns

Head coach Will Barnes (far left) and the Tigers huddle up to talk strategy during the team’s regular-season meeting against Murray in Princeton on Oct. 16. Caldwell County will visit Murray in the first round of the KHSAA playoffs on Nov. 20.

This year’s high school football schedule has been altered throughout the year by COVID-19 regulations. Some games have been rescheduled, while others have been canceled completely.

This year’s playoffs will be no exception.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) announced on Saturday that the playoff schedule would be postponed by one week to allow schools dealing with COVID-19 quarantines to be more able to participate.

Last Friday, 66 games across the state — including Caldwell County’s game at Christian County — were canceled through the KHSAA’s COVID-19 regulations.

In an article posted Saturday on the KHSAA website, the organization detailed its plan.

“The KHSAA notified member schools this morning that the start of the football playoffs will be delayed one week in an effort to provide schools and school systems time to review their situations and work with their health departments to determine the best course of action,” the statement read. “The first round of the playoffs will now take place the weekend of Nov. 19-21 with no additional planned changes in the playoff structure at this point in time.

“In the meantime, schools and school systems should review site strategies, seating capacities and all other facets of the likely contest(s) during this interim period and certainly remind students that what they do outside of practice and the game field can have a tremendous impact on themselves and those around them. It is highly advised that all levels of school administration be in on hosting decisions and use this interim time to play out various ‘what if’ scenarios based on hopefully changing data.”

On this schedule, if one round of playoffs is played each weekend, the championship game would be held the weekend of Dec. 17-20.

Caldwell County (3-3 overall, 1-2 district) — the No. 3 seed in Class 2A District 1 — will visit No. 2 seed Murray (5-3, 1-1) for a 7 p.m. Nov. 20 first-round game. Tickets are being handled through the gofan application or online at gofcan.co. That information will be released later this week, according to Murray High School administrators.

CCHS head coach Will Barnes — whose inaugural season at the helm of the Tigers has been unusual, to say the least — said while some of his players have been among those who have been quarantined, the added time can be beneficial for the team.

“We obviously didn’t have a game last week, so we practiced on Friday to try to get a leg up,” he said. “We still thought we were playing (in the playoffs) this coming week.

“It’s kind of weird deal to go two weeks without playing and trying to figure out the best way to approach this week. That’s going to be the biggest thing: Just figuring out exactly what’s best for our kids and our program, to make sure we try to keep a good routine, just how weird and unusual this set-up is now.”

Barnes said it was similar to the way the preseason went for Kentucky, with a couple of weeks of practice before playing an actual game, but differed in that the team hadn’t played at that point, while it has played six games to this point.

“In the preseason, we hadn’t played a game, and it was really a complete turnaround to get in game shape,” he said. “At this point in the season, we’re in decent shape and physically where we need to be, I think. It’s a little bit different being at the end of the year versus the beginning of the year. At the beginning, you haven’t had as much practice time. Here, we’ve cut back our practice times, we’re not practicing as long, trying to keep our kids fresh.”

Barnes said he and his coaching staff have worked hard all year to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among his team and to others.

“All of our kids that have been quarantined have been quarantined because of school contacts, not because of football contacts,” he said. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year. All those precautions and protocols that we’ve been following ever since we started, we’ve got to continue to follow those and make sure we give ourselves the best chance possible to make sure we’re 100% and got everybody ready to go into the playoffs.

“A lot of these things that we do in our program, you can go back and say, ‘We did it this way this year,’ or ‘Somebody else has done it this way.’ This deal with COVID, it’s unchartered territory, so we try to do the best we can and make sure we’re taking every precaution necessary to keep our kids and their families safe.”

CCHS Athletics Director Kim Farmer said she was concerned about how the postponement would affect the boys’ basketball team.

“If they don’t push back the start date for basketball, it’s going to hit us hard, depending on how far we advance in football” she said. “You hope you go the whole way (in football). Our boys’ first home basketball game is Nov. 30. That only gives a week and a day, and that’s if we’re out after the first round of playoffs.

“If the moon and stars aligned, we could beat Murray and beat Mayfield (in the football playoffs), and we would host another-round playoff game. Then, you’re talking the first week of December.”

Farmer said that the extra time allows the football team to prepare, but worries that it may provide more opportunity for student-athletes to catch COVID-19.

“There’s that other side of you that thinks that we’ve dodged a bullet,” she said. “Our football team and our football coaches have done everything that they are supposed to do to stay healthy, but sometimes, the longer you go, there’s that greater risk that you run that something may happen. We made it this far, and we were ready to go — we were ready for playoffs. But I can understand, looking at the state and the red counties, what the KHSAA was thinking about, to possibly lower some of those numbers, to make it safer.”