PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — On Wednesday, the Pierre School District announced the postponing of all practices and games for volleyball, football and soccer, due to a COVID-19 increase in the high school.
“The vast majority of kids that are gone or missing school are because they are close contacts,” Pierre football head coach Steve Steele said.
On Thursday, the South Dakota Department of Health announced 89 new positive cases in Hughes County, where Pierre is located.
The Pierre Governor football team was slated to face 11 ‘A’ top ranked Tea Area on Friday, but that game has been postponed, despite having a small amount of positive cases.
“We had just a couple of confirmed positive cases, but we had more players that were identified as close contacts,” Steele said. “After close contacts, we were down about a third of our team, and for Friday, it wasn’t changing for the better, it could only change for the worse.”
According to the South Dakota High School Activities Association website, this year’s Pierre team has 56 players on the roster. A third of the roster would be about 19 players, however it wasn’t just total numbers that affected the Govenors.
“Football is different from most sports, I think, because there are more positions and positionally, we had some spots that had completely emptied,” Steele said. “We had some freshman play Monday, then they practiced with the varsity Tuesday and would’ve had to start on Friday.”
Like much of the state, Pierre was looking forward to Friday’s game against top ranked Tea Area.
“I think most of our guys are disappointed we won’t get to play tomorrow (Friday) for obvious reasons,” Steele said. “However, we want our kids to be safe.”
With a loss of a third of their roster, plus the loss of players in certain positions, Pierre decided to postpone Friday’s highly anticipated, football game against Tea Area.
However, Friday’s football game isn’t the only game to be postponed/canceled.
Pierre was scheduled to play a double header against Sioux Falls Roosevelt in girls and boy’s soccer on Thursday, September 17, but that game has also been canceled.
The Governors volleyball team was also scheduled to host Yankton on Friday, September 18 and Douglas on Saturday, September 19, but those games will also be canceled.
“Everything in those three sports has been canceled until Monday,” Steele said. “There isn’t practice either.”
As for Friday’s football game, it is uncertain when or if the two schools will be able to make up the game.
Pierre has a full remainder of the season as they play Spearfish, Huron, Brookings, Mitchell and Douglas in their final five weeks of the season.
Tea Area was slated to play a full, nine game season, but may now be looking at a bye week or be on the search for a new ninth game.
The Titans have a full remainder of the season as well as they are slated to play Madison, Lennox, Sioux Falls Christian, Milbank and Dell Rapids in their final five weeks.
Tea could potentially fill in week four with a different game. There are a handful of teams with an opening such as Winner (11 ‘B’), Lennox (11 ‘A’), Mobridge-Pollock (11 ‘B’), Lead-Deadwood (11 ‘B’) and Beresford (11 ‘B’).
As for the Governors, they will be off until Monday, but next Friday’s (September 25) game against Spearfish is still on as scheduled.
“The way the dates line up, we would be able to get some players back before the game against Spearfish,” Steele said.
Pierre is currently 2-1 and is coming off their first loss in 700 days as the Governors fell 52-29 to Yankton.
“I would say we’ve played pretty good so far. We want to win every game, but sometimes that isn’t possible,” Steele said. “In this case, we lost to a good Yankton team and we made too many mistakes. We are glad to have this case in September, so we can fix things before the playoffs.”
The Governors won back to back state championships at the 11 ‘AA’ level, but after graduating a lot of last year’s starters, this years team has some experience to catch up on.
“A lot of the mistakes we made against Yankton, we can’t simulate in practice,” Steele said. “With a younger team, you need to allow them to make these mistakes and then grow from them.”
There are a few things that coach Steele wants to see his Governors improve on and that includes cleaning up the little things.
“The number one thing to work on is not making mistakes,” Steele said. “We are trying to teach them that not every play on offense needs to be a touchdown and on defense, not every play needs to be a sack or turnover.”
The COVID-19 cases on the team has given coach Steele and the rest of the team a different perspective on the 2020 season.
“I think there will be a lot of excitement to get back to football after this,” Steele said. “It’ll give us a new appreciation for the games we do get to play and it should give the entire state a new perspective. This (COVID-19) is hard to avoid and we can be fortunate it happened in September and not later in the season.”