Cathedral’s Friday football game in limbo after COVID-19 outbreak

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, November 3, 2020

By SCOTT HAWKINS, PATRICK JONES and SABRINA ROBERTSON

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — The No. 5 seed Cathedral High School Green Wave was scheduled to travel to Louisville to take on the No. 4 seed Winston Academy Patriots in the second round of the 2020 MAIS Class 4A Playoffs Friday night.

After a recent outbreak of COVID-19 at Cathedral forced ninth- through 12th-grade students, as well as sixth-grade students, to go into quarantine and virtual learning from Nov. 3 through Nov. 13, the Green Wave is still in limbo as to if it will have to forfeit its playoff game.

However, the school’s administration made a decision Monday morning that all sports have been canceled during the quarantine period through Nov. 12.

“It’s out of my hands,” Cathedral head football coach Chuck Darbonne said.

Multiple calls to Cathedral Headmaster Norm Yvon seeking comment for this story went unreturned Monday and Tuesday.

Green Wave athletic director Craig Beesley did not return calls seeking comment as to whether the game will take place or not.

“No comment,” Beesley replied via email Monday.

Less Triplett, Midsouth Association of Independent Schools Director of Activities, said Cathedral had not contacted MAIS with a formal decision as of Tuesday afternoon on whether to play in the playoff game Friday.

“They’ve been in contact with people in our office but their contacting us was informative,” Triplett said. “Right now the two schools are discussing.”

Triplett said any team that is not able to play one week forfeits their chances at the championship.

“Any school that didn’t play would be eliminated, but I don’t know that we’ve reached that point,” Triplett said. “Their games take place every week and if a team is not able to participate one week then they’d be eliminated.”

The Catholic Diocese of Jackson said late Tuesday afternoon that the decision to play the game or cancel it would be left up to the school.

Cathedral improved to 10-1 overall after defeating No. 12 seed Hillcrest Christian School in a first-round game, as well as the Green Wave’s homecoming game, 55-26 last Friday night at D’Evereux Stadium.

The Green Wave team could have a good chance of claiming a state title and some parents are not pleased with the decision to cancel Friday’s game.

“I disagreed with the administration on how they handled the situation,” said Chandler Russ, whose son, Noah Russ, is the Green Wave’s starting sophomore quarterback. “I don’t think that they used solid facts and figures to make the decision they came to and I do not believe that a medical professional was ever consulted.”

Russ questioned quarantining the football team when the COVID-19 outbreak did not specifically affect the football team.

“From what I understand,” Chandler Russ said, “they definitely sent all the high school home and the sixth grade and left K-5 and seventh and eighth grade there. If it is a full-out breach there and you’ve got an outbreak you close the whole facility.”

Chandler Russ said the Green Wave varsity football team has played 11 games so far this season without a COVID-19 issue and he questioned the decision to cancel Friday’s game and whether the decision could be reversed at this point.

“I think we’ve got an uphill battle and that email went out prematurely,” Chandler Russ said. “Once it hit the airwaves with Winston County it is an uphill battle to have them play us.”

Chandler said he had not heard any updates from school administrators on Tuesday morning on whether they might reconsider Monday’s decision to cancel Friday’s game and all sports activities through Nov. 12.

“I’m not privy to any discussions that might be going on with the diocese, MAIS and Winston County, so I don’t know if anything has changed this morning or not,” Chandler Russ said. “I know yesterday it did not look like we were going to play so it is a terrible deal for the senior kids who have played their hearts out and had a legitimate shot at a state championship. The athletic administration has done a good job keeping COVID-19 at bay through the course of the year and to have it yanked at this late hour is disheartening by any stretch of the imagination. It is very disappointing, and I’m very disappointed with the leadership of the school that chose to go in that direction without any discussion or trying to figure out how to safely move forward.”

Chandler Russ noted that others schools, including NCAA colleges, are successfully holding virtual classes and continuing to have athletic programs.

“To make that decision (to cancel Friday’s game) without any discussion, without discussion of viable alternatives that might be there is disappointing,” Chandler Russ said, adding that Winston Academy students had already posted on social media that Cathedral had forfeited Friday’s game.

“I’m extremely disappointed,” Chandler Russ said.