Friday night’s rivalry football game between the Carthage Tigers and Webb City Cardinals was canceled on Wednesday by Carthage school administrators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carthage Superintendent Mark Baker said a Tigers football player tested positive for the novel coronavirus earlier this week, and contact tracing by Carthage High School administrators showed that player had close contact with others on the team.
The player who tested positive is in isolation while those determined to have had close contact with him have been ordered to quarantine by the Jasper County Health Department.
The game would have been a contest between two longtime rivals, and for the first time in rivalry history, two state championship winners from a year ago, Carthage having won the Class 5 state title and Webb City earning the Class 4 championship.
It would mark the first time since at least 1920 that the Tigers and Cardinals have not played each other on the gridiron, according to the website webbcityfootball.com, which posts an archive of the results of every season since then.
“Obviously you can tell we take this seriously to cancel such a huge game, but the safety of our kids and Webb City’s kids is more important,” Baker said. “Our administrators did the contact tracing and determined we had many football players, including a number of starters, who have to be quarantined.”
Baker said the game likely can’t be rescheduled because neither team has an open date the rest of the season, and the playoffs begin the week after the regular season ends.
Webb City Superintendent Anthony Rossetti said he supports the Carthage School District’s decision not to play, even though the game was a big one on the Cardinals’ calendar.
“We knew there were going to be bumps in the road when we started this venture this year,” Rossetti said. “And certainly we want to play Carthage, but as it stands right now we have to understand their situation. It could easily happen to us. Having empathy and understanding over what’s going on is important right now.”
Webb City will play a game Friday night: The district announced it would host Kickapoo High School at Cardinal Stadium. Senior night activities scheduled for Friday will proceed as planned.
Baker said the incident means a number of students won’t be at the high school for several days, but the school itself was operating normally. He said he hopes the team plays its Sept. 25 home game with the Branson Pirates, but that all depends on when the quarantine period ends for the Tigers players.
Baker credited high school administrators for quickly identifying the players who needed to be quarantined.
“It’s a lot of people the have to go through, and our administrators have done a fantastic job,” Baker said. “It is extremely time consuming for our staff, but we are doing what we have to do.”