Highland Park’s season opener against Austin Westlake, originally scheduled for Sept. 25, has been canceled due to a spike in positive COVID-19 cases among HP varsity football players.
Westlake officials confirmed the news late Thursday, and have already found a replacement opponent for the Chaparrals for next week.
Highland Park ISD later announced that the Scots’ second contest on Oct. 2 at Mesquite Horn also has been cancelled.
The season opener is now planned for Oct. 9 against Coppell at Highlander Stadium. That leaves an eight-game schedule, the first two of which will be nondistrict games.
“It was a sudden spike in cases in a one-day period,” said HPISD director of communications Jon Dahlander. “That spike has caused us to evaluate what is in everybody’s best interest. We don’t want to put kids at risk. It seemed to be the appropriate thing to pause momentarily.”
The surge in lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases within the program also prompted the cancellation of the team’s scheduled preseason scrimmage against Euless Trinity on Thursday.
Dahlander acknowledged a significant number of varsity players will be quarantined for the foreseeable future. The team also has temporarily halted workouts.
The highly anticipated matchup with perennial state powerhouse Westlake, the defending Class 6A Division II state champions, was expected to include up to 2,500 fans in attendance at Highlander Stadium.
Dahlander said the district does not have a testing or quarantine protocol specific to the football program. However, HPISD stipulates that any students or staff members who test positive are “not permitted to participate in any in-person or on-campus events and activities until they have completed the isolation period (10 days) and met the established Requirements for Re-Entry guidelines set by state and local health authorities.”
The district has initiated contact tracing procedures to determine the extent of the quarantine measures for those in close contact. In terms of participants, HP’s varsity football roster is among the largest of any school in Texas.
“We don’t believe that these are false positives. We believe these are true cases,” he said. “The health and safety of students and staff is always our top priority.”