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More games lost because of virus

by Jeremy Muck | September 18, 2020 at 2:14 a.m.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced more cancellations to the state's high school football schedule for tonight and next week's conference games.

Three conference games for Sept. 25 and one for Oct. 2, along with two games that were to have been played tonight, have been canceled because of covid-19.

Little Rock Southwest will not play its 7A-Central Conference home games against Conway (Sept. 25) and Cabot (Oct. 2). Hamburg at DeWitt in the 4A-8 Conference and Lincoln at Hackett in the 3A-1 Conference won't be played either, with both games having been scheduled for Sept. 25.

Tonight's games that have been canceled include Stuttgart at DeWitt and Mountainburg at Hackett.

There have been 19 known football games in the state that have been affected by covid-19 this season, which began Aug. 27. Four games this week have been affected, including Blytheville-Riverview and Crossett-McGehee because of covid-19 cases at Riverview and Crossett. But Blytheville and McGehee have scheduled each other to play tonight in McGehee.

Little Rock Southwest's football program is shut down until Sept. 29 because a student tested positive for covid-19.

Little Rock School District spokeswoman Pamela Smith told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday that at least 51 students are being quarantined after being determined as being in close contact with the student, according to the Arkansas Department of Health.

LRSD Athletic Director John Daniels said the decision to call off the Little Rock Southwest-Cabot game was made because the quarantined players will not be able to return in time for that matchup.

Smith, nor Daniels, could not confirm how many football players were either quarantined or had tested positive, citing privacy laws.

Hackett Athletic Director Lonnie Hester told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Thursday that the school had to cancel its games against Mountainburg tonight and its 3A-1 opener against Lincoln because of covid-19 issues.

The Stuttgart-DeWitt game is an annual rivalry game between the two Arkansas County schools. The game will not be made up.

DeWitt Superintendent Nick Hill told the Democrat-Gazette that he couldn't specify how many students tested positive or came into contact with someone who has the virus because of privacy reasons. But he added that several members of the football team are quarantined.

The 4A-8 Conference has eight teams, which doesn't leave an open date to attempt for Hamburg and DeWitt to play each other.

As with nonconference games, conference games will be considered a no-contest if they are canceled because of covid-19.

Hamburg Coach Cecil Ray Cossey confirmed to the Democrat-Gazette that the Lions will travel to Drew Central tonight. The scheduling change was made Thursday.

Two of Hamburg's opponents in the 2020 season -- Forrest City on Sept. 4 and DeWitt for Sept. 25 -- had to cancel because of covid-19 reasons. Also, Hamburg's scrimmage in August against Junction City was called off as Junction City's program was shut down for covid-19.

Cossey said it was important for the Lions to play this week, considering they won't get to next week.

"I want my kids to get to play," Cossey said. "We need to play four quarters. Our kids can't handle too much more emotion [with cancellations]."

The playoff picture for Class 7A, Class 4A and Class 3A are different with the no-contest games for Little Rock Southwest, DeWitt and Hackett.

In Class 7A, all 16 teams will make the postseason and will have the option to opt out of the playoffs by Oct. 26. The state's largest class usually takes 12 out of the 16 teams in its playoff bracket.

The Class 4A and Class 3A will also have all of its teams qualify for the playoffs. The Arkansas Activities Association will make up the bracket using total number of conference wins, head-to-head results, average number of tiebreaker points and a coin toss. Teams in Class 4A and 3A will also have the option of opting out of the playoffs.

If a team is unable to play in the postseason after the bracket is finalized and published, the team will forfeit, according to the AAA.

Also on Thursday, Fayetteville announced that several members of its football team have been quarantined because of covid-19 contact and tracing. The school did not say how many players are in quarantine.

The Bulldogs are off this week. They last played Sept. 11 at North Little Rock. The next game for Fayetteville is scheduled for Sept. 25 against Bentonville West at Harmon Field in Fayetteville.

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