Wilkinson County game against Natchez canceled, disappointing but best decision, coach says

Published 10:59 am Thursday, August 26, 2021

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NATCHEZ — According to the Mississippi High School Association website, Wilkinson County High School canceled their game against Natchez High School. Natchez Athletic Director Alphaka Moore said she learned of the cancelation a day ago.

The two schools would have opened up their season Friday night. However, Wilkinson County High School head coach Jeffery Gibson said the school had to go to virtual instruction due to COVID.

“I’m a football coach, so it was disappointing,” Gibson said. “I really looked forward to playing Natchez. They are a 5A school that would help us prepare for the season. I do understand the COVID side of it. The administration is doing the best for our kids and the community.”

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Rickey Neaves, Mississippi High School Athletic Association Executive Director, said they have a rule barring schools who are 100 percent in virtual instruction from competing in athletic competitions. Schools have to forfeit the contests they miss.

“The reasoning is that if you can not go to school and are 100 percent virtual, we can not see how you can not go to school and still play games,” Neaves said. “Virtual schools and virtual students are ineligible from competing in games. There is no change to the virtual part of it.”

Gibson said he found the rule a bit harsh but knows how hard it is to make up a football game. Wilkinson County should go to a hybrid schedule on Monday and could resume practices next week, he said. The Wildcats should return to action when they play Amite County next Friday.

“The kids are itching to get back out there,” Gibson said. “We have to be conscious about the COVID numbers. It is real, and people are losing their lives.”

Natchez High School is contacting anyone who purchased tickets to their season opener by email.

“We are not going to reschedule anybody else,” Moore said. “We were going to find someone to replace them, but no one wants to travel right now. We are moving forward for next week.”