As it does after every home game, Fairview’s football team walked the length of the field together on Friday night after its game against Sayre.
They didn’t know it at the time, but that was the final public act of the 2020 Eagles.
Fairview’s administration shut down the program for the remainder of the season on Wednesday after a “good portion” of the team was exposed to a positive COVID-19 case at a non-football event, Fairview coach Daniel Armstrong said.
The Eagles had been scheduled to go to Raceland for the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 20. Instead, the season has come to an end.
“It’s infinitely more difficult,” Armstrong said of the abrupt conclusion. “Obviously we want to end the season on our own terms. We were excited about the opportunity to play Raceland again, especially in a playoff setting. That’s always a big thing.
“To have things stop like this, something that’s outside our control, something we don’t have a say in, it’s a hard pill to swallow.”
In a season pockmarked with postponements and cancellations, Fairview did get in all eight regular-season games it had scheduled after the KHSAA announced it would go forward with fall sports over the summer.
“We’d done really well with preventing COVID and taking all the precautions,” Armstrong said. “Things in our area have been ramping up with COVID. Everybody around the program, we were feeling like we were on borrowed time anyway.”
That didn’t make it any easier for the Eagles, who felt like they were playing their best football, the coach said, specifically mentioning seniors Gracin Smith, Jaylen Terry and Brennan Murray.
The Eagles’ 2-6 record, Armstrong felt, didn’t tell the whole story of the progress the team made.
Symbolically toward that end, what turned out to be Fairview’s final play from scrimmage of the season was a touchdown. Cody Caldwell caught a 26-yard TD from Tanner Johnson, followed by Johnson’s successful two-point conversion run under a running clock against the Spartans on Friday night.
“I think we improved overall as a team,” Armstrong said. “We played better defensively down the stretch. Fundamentally, we were more sound. We were operating our offense at a much-higher level.”
Armstrong said the Eagles talked before Friday night’s game about the possibility it would be their last game, with COVID-19 numbers in northeastern Kentucky trending in the wrong direction.
“They did everything we asked them to do,” Armstrong said. “They wore their masks, they social distanced, they washed their hands, they didn’t gripe and complain about having their temperatures taken.
“We logged something like 12,000 temperatures over the course of this season, and our kids never got discouraged and never got down, even though the circumstances were looking grim.”
An attempt to reach Fairview district superintendent Jackie Risden-Smith for comment Wednesday night was not immediately successful.
Fairview’s decision came a week after Greenup County initially announced it would end football season without participating in the playoffs due to a lack of adequate preparation time born from COVID-19-related complications.
That was the day before the KHSAA announced the postponement of the playoffs by one week on Saturday, after which the Musketeers said they would play if Greenup County is below red on the COVID-19 incidence map on Thursday.
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