Virus outbreaks disrupt start to 2021 HS season

Local teams already shuffling some games in worrisome callback to last year

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
A surge in COVID-19 cases has caused several cancellations of season-opening games in North Texas and across the state this weekend, and has already affected some Ellis County teams indirectly.

The 2021 Texas high school football season hadn’t even kicked off yet before things were starting to look a lot like the 2020 season did.

A rapid spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the highly-contagious Delta variant forced several cancellations of season-opening games in North Texas and across the state this weekend, and has already affected some Ellis County teams indirectly.

The Palmer Bulldogs were to travel to Kemp on Friday night, but that game was canceled after Kemp ISD closed down its campus for the week due to an outbreak of the virus in that school district. The Bulldogs did not seek a replacement opponent and will instead open their season at home against Grand Saline next Friday.

In Class 4A Division II, Venus has canceled its first two football games because of an outbreak, and this affects Maypearl, who was scheduled to host the Bulldogs next Friday. The Panthers are looking for a replacement opponent for next week.

The cancellations have already reached into Week 3. Red Oak’s scheduled showcase game on Sept. 10 against Neumann-Goretti out of Philadelphia has been called off. Instead, the Hawks will host Rockwall-Heath on that date. Rockwall-Heath had its own opening to fill after Garland Naaman Forest canceled its entire non-district schedule.

The University Interscholastic League last fall staggered the football season in response to the pandemic, moving the start of Class 5A and 6A seasons back by four weeks. With the availability of vaccines this year, a return to normalcy was forecast. But despite the shots, the spread of the new COVID variant even among the vaccinated is threatening to disrupt Friday night lights for the second fall in a row.

If form holds true this fall, schedules could be altered in a matter of hours by a positive COVID case.

Last fall, for example, Midlothian High canceled a game against Wichita Falls Rider after a positive test was discovered just as Rider’s buses were pulling into the MISD Multipurpose Stadium parking lot.  Also, Midlothian Heritage replaced a game that was canceled by Brownwood on Friday morning with a game against Mesquite Poteet that very same evening, a game the Jaguars won, 49-33.