As the state’s high school football schedule changes by the day, with cancellations and no contests aplenty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state’s largest high school has had to put its season on hold.
Last week, Allen ISD announced the cancellation of last Friday’s game between the Eagles and Cedar Hill, as well this week’s non-district finale against Tyler Legacy. The decision stemmed from what was initially two student-athletes at Allen who tested positive for COVID-19 — a number that has since grown.
“It’s a situation that’s very discouraging and disappointing for our kids, but at the same time, you have to err on the side of caution,” said Steven Williams, AISD athletic director. “We feel like we do a good job of following the protocols and there are a lot of people making these decisions, but you just have to make sure you’re providing safety for your kids and I think that’s what we’ve done.”
Williams added that approximately 11 student-athletes tested positive for the virus. Per AISD, any student who has a lab-confirmed positive test of COVID-19 will be required to remain off campus and follow CDC guidelines before returning to school.
Friday’s matchup against Legacy was initially scheduled to be Allen’s homecoming game. Those festivities will be postponed to a later date. Following the cancellations, the Eagles’ next scheduled game won’t be until Oct. 30 against McKinney Boyd; Allen has its bye scheduled for next week.
“The kids are disappointed. We’re all disappointed, but at the same time, you’ve got to keep your team safe and make the right decisions,” said Terry Gambill, Allen head coach. “[The kids are] doing a great job. You can’t really put it into words, though. It is what it is. It’s why the NFL is having to move around games and Baylor has had to shut down multiple times.”
Gambill added that Allen has shut down all varsity activities within the football program for the week. The Eagles’ freshman and junior varsity teams, however, remain on their typical weekly schedule.
“We’re not doing anything this week with our varsity,” Gambill said.
Gambill stressed the need for his players to both stay safe and stay on top of their grades during the time away from the practice field. Prior to the shutdown, the Eagles had amassed a 2-0 record — extending their regular-season winning streak to 77 straight victories after topping Plano East (49-26) and state-ranked Atascocita (52-27).
“I don’t think the wins and losses are what’s important right now. The most important thing right now is our kids’ safety and making the right decisions for our kids,” Gambill said.
Following time off, Allen will dive right into its District 5-6A schedule, starting with a home game against Boyd, followed by meetings with Little Elm (Nov. 6, away), Denton Guyer (Nov. 13, home), McKinney (Nov. 20, away), Prosper (Nov. 27, home) and Denton Braswell (Dec. 3, away).
“It’s what it is. We’re following the guidelines and hopefully we’ll get back for when district starts and be ready to go. I think our kids will be excited to get back to playing,” Gambill said.
Lovejoy looks to stay hot vs. Denison
The Leopards have hit the ground running under new head coach Chris Ross, erupting over the first few weeks of the season to the tune of 56 points per game. Last Friday, they opened their District 7-5A Division II campaign on an emphatic note with a 62-6 rout of Princeton.
A 47-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Adam Eschler sparked a run of 55 unanswered points to begin the ballgame, with Lovejoy improving to 3-0 on the year. Quarterback Ralph Rucker threw for 192 yards and four touchdowns on just 13-of-17 passing, while Noah Naidoo and Matthew Mainord both eclipsed 100 yards rushing and scored one touchdown apiece. Philip Joest, a standout linebacker, added a pair of rushing touchdowns for the Leopards, while Bo Allen paced the receiving corps with 74 yards and a score.
Lovejoy has a chance at a statement win Friday in a notoriously tough road environment in Denison. The Yellow Jackets are 1-1 on the year and will look to test the Leopards’ defense with a bruising run game led by Jadarian Price and Asa Osbourn.
Denison will be playing its first game in two weeks, last seen splitting a pair of matchups with rival Sherman (41-23 win) and Texarkana Texas (24-3) to open its campaign. Lovejoy has won both meetings between the two sides since joining 7-5A Div. II.