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Bingham-Weber cancellation an experience everyone hopes to avoid — especially with varying protocols

Cyprus-Ridge game this Friday is the second cancelation this season because of COVID-19 after a couple of positive tests on Cyprus

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Cyprus players take the field before a high school football game against Snow Canyon at Cyprus High School in Magna on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Fifty of the 51 high school football games in Utah went off without a hitch in last week’s opening weekend of the season.

Yukai Peng, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Fifty of the 51 high school football games in Utah went off without a hitch in last week’s opening weekend of the season. It was the one that didn’t happen, however, that made the most headlines.

The Weber at Bingham game was canceled last Friday after three positive COVID-19 tests on Bingham’s football team.

The players learned of their positive tests the weekend before, and hadn’t been around the team all week leading up to the game.

The ultimate decision to cancel was a mutual one between the schools’ two administrators, and wasn’t directly handed down by school districts or county health departments. The game could’ve been played, but wasn’t due to an abundance of caution.

A somewhat similar experience happened at Granger, where a younger player tested positive about a week before the first game. That player never had any interaction with the varsity team as they practiced on opposite ends of the field, and the Salt Lake County Health Department deemed it safe for Granger to play.

The Granger and Syracuse administrators agreed, which led to one of the surprise results of Week 1 as Granger prevailed, 28-24.

“The schools are doing the very best they can. We are sending reminders to emphasize the protocols at each school. All coaches need to wear masks and all students need to wear masks unless they’re playing in the game. That will be another emphasis coming this week.” — UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff

The two different instances and how they were handled shows just what a gray area COVID-19 is for high school sports teams when positive tests arise.

“I think it will be handled on a case-by-case basis,” said Jordan School District spokesperson Sandy Riesgraf.

Week 2’s slate of games already has a cancelation, as Cyprus-Ridgeline was canceled because of two positive tests on Cyprus’ football team. Ridgeline coach Travis Cox said his team was searching for a replacement game this Friday.

Reflecting on his team’s cancelation, Bingham coach Dave Peck said he had no problem with how the administrators handled it, but admitted there’s a bit of frustration without a standard protocol for everyone to follow.

Even though Bingham lost a game from its schedule last week and was kind of the guinea pig regarding how football teams would handle positive COVID-19 results, Peck said Monday that he fully expects to play this Friday against Skyridge.

Nobody should expect a one-size-fits-all protocol going forward, either.

County health departments and then individual school districts make the initial recommendation to schools about how high school teams should handle positive cases, and with 41 school districts and 29 counties in Utah, those interpretations will vary.

“So the protocol is the school districts work hand in hand with their county health departments, depending upon where they’re at with the governor’s lead-together plan, now at 4.9,” UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff told the Deseret News on Monday. “Depending on where each county is on that will depend on how their county heath department reacts to that.”

Cuff said he heard nothing but positive things about the opening week of the high school football season from the member schools he’s spoken with.

“The schools are doing the very best they can. We are sending reminders to emphasize the protocols at each school,” said Cuff. “All coaches need to wear masks and all students need to wear masks unless they’re playing in the game. That will be another emphasis coming this week.”

Cuff said even though the UHSAA isn’t directly overseeing how schools deal with positive COVID-19 cases, it broadly monitors the situation on a day-by-day basis. Ever since teams were allowed to return to practice after Memorial Day, the UHSAA has stressed to all schools and teams the need to adhere to its Return-to-Play best practices.

With school beginning this week and next for most school districts in Utah, the potential spread of COVID-19 is something the UHSAA and all school districts will be monitoring closely.

“Certainly bringing more numbers to the school has the opportunity for more people getting involved with more issues. Yeah it’s a concern, but I really feel like our schools are doing a good job with their training and protocols that we’ll do the very best we can and we’ll play as long as we can ensure the safety,” said Cuff.

So as high school football teams turn their attention to Week 2 after a successful start to the season, they’ll try and approach it with the same amount of caution as Week 1 to avoid any potential shutdowns.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated after original publication to reflect a cancelation for the Cyprus-Ridgeline game this Friday.