UTICA, Mich. – After months of waiting and preparing for the season opener, the Utica High School football team’s first game was canceled after a player was exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outside of school, officials said.
Friday was supposed to be the season opener for the Utica Chieftains on their home turf. Instead, the whole team has been isolated due to the player’s COVID-19 exposure.
“We had high hopes this season was a go, and then a player got COVID-19,” quarterback Brett Berg said.
Berg, 17, said he’s been training from home to prepare for the season.
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“We’ve all been working out, going over Zoom and film, and I think we’ll be ready to go," Berg said.
The district quarantined the entire varsity team nearly two weeks ago after a player tested positive for COVID-19.
“They’re telling him to get well,” said Catherine Berg, Brett Berg’s mother. “'We need you back.' Nobody’s blaming him. It could happen to any player, person.”
Since the team couldn’t practice, district officials had to cancel the season opener against L’anse Creuse North.
“Originally, there was a little disappointment, but our boys knew this was a possibility,” said Tara Powrozek, whose son is also isolating.
“It was hard, but it’s one game,” Catherine Berg said. “There’s still several more. That’s better than canceling the entire season.”
Officials with the Michigan High School Athletic Association mandate 12 practices before the first game. Utica had practiced four times before they had to quarantine. District officials said they’ll be ready to take on Anchor Bay next Friday.
“It teachers the kids resilience,” Powrozek said. “They’re not going to have everything handed to you, and you have to roll with the punches sometimes.”
The team will continue doing temperature checks, wearing masks and social distancing.
The quarantine ends Wednesday, and the players can go back to practice after school.