In yet another strange twist in an ever-twisting high school football season, fifth-seeded Mead High School announced Monday morning it will not compete in the Class 3A state playoffs because its team was exposed to the coronavirus.
That revelation came less than 24 hours after the Colorado High School Activities Association released the playoff brackets.
So, what to do?
Instead of elevating the No. 9 team in the seeding index into a first-round game — in this case, Palisade — and adjusting the seeds, the game goes down as a forfeit.
“I am not a lucky guy right now,” Palisade coach Joe Ramunno said Monday afternoon.
When CHSAA received a variance from the state to allow football to be played in the fall, the association announced that once the playoff bracket was drawn, it would not be changed if a team was unable to play.
“I guess they found out about 7:45 (Sunday night),” Ramunno said of Mead needing to quarantine, less than eight hours after the bracket was released.
Since no games have been played, some questioned why CHSAA wouldn’t adjust to allow for a full eight-team field, especially this season, when schools, coaches and players have made adjustments on the fly on a weekly basis.
“Come on, man, the ink isn’t even dry on the bracket,” Ramunno said. The Bulldogs won the 3A Western Slope Conference with a 4-1 WSC record, but Evergreen, the conference runner-up, received the No. 7 playoff seed based on its higher seeding index.
Because the playoff field was reduced this season, conference champions were not guaranteed a berth, unlike other seasons.
“It’s too bad because you deprive … it’s us this time, but it’s a bummer. I’d be bummed for everybody, just like I am for Mead,” Ramunno said.
“That’s devastating to those kids. They’re an awfully good football team and they’ve worked awful hard.”
The Mesa County Public Health Department’s recent restrictions allow for groups of no more than 10 people and announced last week that no more football games could be played in the county.
However, had Palisade made the playoffs, arrangements would have been made to allow the Bulldogs to practice.
School District 51 Athletic Director Paul Cain said he had talked with some school officials in neighboring counties to arrange for practice facilities.
Having Palisade practice at Grand Valley High School in Parachute was a possibility, and Ramunno said he had talked with Delta coach Ben Johnson about using the Panthers’ practice field.
Ramunno said the Bulldogs could have broken into position pods for drills most of the week and just have one full team workout to prepare if necessary.
With the new restrictions in place, the four District 51 football teams will not play a seventh game this week, which is an option for teams not making the playoffs.
With the season over, Cain is finalizing the master basketball schedule in the hopes that season is played, and Ramunno is teaching his weight lifting and industrial arts classes online, hoping students can return to the building at some point and finish the dog houses they’ve been building.
Despite missing the playoffs, Ramunno is glad the district opted to play this fall.
“You’ve gotta be thankful we got six games in,” he said. “A lot didn’t.”