UPDATE: Tift Co’s game canceled, Senior Night postponed
TIFTON, Ga. (WCTV) - Friday night’s matchup between the Tift County Blue Devils and the Valdosta Wildcats has been canceled by the Georgia Public Health Department due to one team’s “alarming rate” of COVID-19.
The Director of Communications for the Department’s South Health District, Courtney Sheeley, tells WCTV five Blue Devils, including players and coaches, have tested positive for the virus in the last 48 hours leading up to kick-off.
Four of the newly reported cases are players, and the other is the team’s head coach, Ashley Anders.
This marks the first game in its 10 counties the district has had to call due to COVID.
“We completely understand people’s desire to play football, and we hate the decision had to be made to cancel the game, especially with it being Senior Night for Tift County, however, for the safety of the football players, the coaches, the staff, for Tift County and Valdosta City Schools, the decision have to be made to cancel the game,” Sheeley said.
Right now, she says they’re working closely with superintendent Adam Hathaway and the school’s nurse on case investigations and contact tracing.
“We really relied heavily on the Department of Public Health as it comes to the spread of this virus with everything we’ve done this school year," Tift County Schools' spokesperson, Jonathan Judy, told WCTV. "And so this was no different.”
According to the board, the team has not been quarantined, next Friday’s game has not been cancelled and the high school’s Senior Night will be postponed to a later game this season.
VHS Head Coach Rush Propst says his team was “not happy” when he broke the news to players on Friday.
“I would assume it’s a forfeit win for us is what I would assume because of the lateness of it," he told WCTV.
Schools were notified by DPH on game day, the same day health officials received test results showing the handful of new positive cases.
“I think everybody’s trying to figure out how to battle this and what to do," he said. "And I’m thinking that possibly, you know, we’re gonna have to go virtual with these football teams. We’re gonna have to go virtual to stay safe.”
Coach says rescheduling the game would be tricky because the two teams would need a mutual off-day in their season schedules. But he says the Wildcats have October 16 is open.
Of the five positive cases, only one Blue Devil is currently hospitalized. That’s Coach Anders.
“He’s not in great shape,” Propst said.
And, in fact, Judy with Tift County Schools tells WCTV his symptoms are worsening.
He says Anders was diagnosed Wednesday morning with both influenza and COVID-19.
“It’s already a serious virus, then you add another virus on top of it,” he said over the phone.
According to Judy, his oxygen levels dropped and symptoms deteriorated Thursday morning, and Anders was admitted to Tift Regional Hospital.
“I’ve spoken with Coach Anders today [Friday], and he says he’s feeling about the same he did yesterday,” Judy said. “So he’s just currently receiving oxygen treatments at the hospital.”
The coach’s rumored diagnosis of pneumonia, according to Judy, has not been confirmed at this time.
“Please keep Coach Anders and his family in your prayers as he battles these illnesses,” the Board wrote on Facebook.
With their game canceled, Coach Propst says he plans to watch Bainbridge play Friday night, the team they’ll face next week, or attend the Lowndes County game.
“You put a lot into a week’s work,” Propst told WCTV. “I mean you put so much into it, and then, all of a sudden, it’s just, ‘Bam’, hits you in the face. So I would imagine it’s a forfeit win for us unless we reschedule. That’s all I can figure.”
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