Pat Byrd mug.jpg

RICHLANDS—Pat Byrd was more concerned about what his seniors missed than anything else when his Richlands football team had its Friday night season finale with Southwest Onslow canceled on Thursday.

Byrd has called this spring season of extreme ups and downs “Covid football.”

This was the final blow.

There was a positive Covid-19 test within his program, which calls for quarantining at home for two weeks.

The Wildcats weren’t in the running for a state playoff spot, so that was that.

“It’s just extremely unfortunate for the kids not to have the opportunity to play Southwest,” said the first-year Wildcats coach. “They look forward to it every year, and that hurt. The seniors especially.

“There they were getting ready for the last game of their high school careers—and their last memory will be getting called into the office on Thursday and told football’s over, go home and quarantine.

“It’s something they’ll remember the rest of their lives.”

Okay, it’s nowhere near some of the tragic and life-altering pandemic outcomes. More than 562,000 U.S. citizens have died from it.

But in the context of high school sports …

“For our team,” Byrd said, “we’d had good practices, started seeing growth in rebuilding the football culture here, and had about gotten back to where we were with the Dixon win the week before.

“We’ll have to work even harder to maintain that.”

Byrd also said, “Not playing [might have proven]unfortunate for Southwest, too. Teams were seeded by conference winning percentage, and if they had beaten us, they’d probably have had a higher seed.”

Somehow, the Stallions’ 4-1 Coastal 8 1A/2A Conference record only earned them the No. 8 seed in the 2A East Regional field.

They’ll travel all the way to No. 1 Reidsville (6-0, 4-0) in the first round. The winner plays the Wallace-Rose Hill-Red Springs survivor in the second week.

At the very least, the Wildcats missed a chance to snap their 32-game losing streak to their county rival.

Richlands’ team was out for two weeks earlier this season because of contract tracing following the season-opener Feb. 26. They made up those games by playing four times in 19 days.

If current, mostly-promising trends continue—if people continue to get vaccinated, wear masks and distance—regular fall football practice is scheduled to begin Aug. 1. Opening games are two to three weeks later.

Bill Rollins can be reached at yorollo@yahoo.com and at 910-554-9059.

Michael Jaenicke can be reached at mjaenicke@ncweeklies.com