Kearns High latest football team out of postseason due to COVID-19 cases

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Kearns players rush onto the field as Kearns hosts Lone Peak, high school football, Thursday September 14, 2017. The 2020 Kearns High team has had to end its season rather than compete in the playoffs due to positive COVID-19 tests. Kearns (8-1) was fifth in the state's Class 6A RPI rankings.

One of the top high school football programs in Utah won’t get to compete for a championship due to COVID-19.

The Kearns Cougars, who finished 8-1 in the regular season and hoped for a deep playoff run, ended their season Thursday after three people on the team tested positive for the coronavirus, Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley said.

Cougars coach Matt Rickards told The Salt Lake Tribune in an email that entire staff is “devastated.”

“This is just absolutely horrible to end the season like this,” Rickards said. "We are a family and that is what makes this hurt so much. The game in itself is fun and what we work hard towards competing. But the thing we will miss the most is spending that time together, working as a family to reach a goal.

“It always ends at some point but you would like to go out swinging at the very least. My hope is that these guys will be resilient and stay focused on finishing high school strong and never take anything for granted.”

The three on the team tested positive within a 14-day window, which prompted a recommendation that the entire team be dismissed.

However, the recommendation for dismissal, Horsley said, is not equivalent to a quarantine. Kearns High as a whole has 15 confirmed cases at the school, which will immediately move to distance learning.

“We have agonized over the fact that this dismissal will effectively end the football team’s season,” the school district wrote in a letter to Kearns parents that was obtained by The Tribune. “We acknowledge the great success they have experienced this season. We sincerely regret this is the case but really acknowledge that the safety for our students and employees will continue to be paramount above all else.”

The dismissal for both the school and the team is 14 days. The Cougars had a second round playoff game scheduled for Oct. 30 after receiving a bye in the first round. But the team will have to forfeit that game.

Kearns was fifth in the RPI rankings in 6A.

The Cougars are the third high school this week that has been forced to shut down its season due to coronavirus cases. Fremont and Uintah were the first two.