East and Lone Peak high schools cancel football game due to COVID-19 concerns

The cancellation is the second in just over two weeks of Utah high school football — and coaches are concerned more will be inevitable

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Jon King (14) defends for the chargers, as Omar Shah runs the ball after intercepting a pass in the end zone for East High, in prep football action between Corner Canyon Chargers and the East Leopards, on Saturday. East has canceled its game this week against Lone Peak due to COVID-19 concerns.

The second high school football game in Utah has been canceled due to COVID-19 this season.

The game scheduled for Friday between Lone Peak (2-0) and East (0-2) was nixed due to health protocols after a player on East tested positive for COVID-19, said Jason Olsen, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake City School District.

“Unfortunately, we will not have players cleared in time for the scheduled game,” Olsen said. “Understandably, the East High players and coaching staff are disappointed at missing this game, but the health and well-being of our students and the students at Lone Peak is our top priority.”

Lone Peak coach Bart Brockbank said he received a phone call from East coach Brandon Matich on Wednesday morning where the Matich conveyed there were some “potential COVID issues” that put the game in jeopardy.

Brockbank received a follow-up call from Matich in the afternoon with the news that East could not play the game.

“This is terrible for our seniors who have looked forward to these moments and worked really hard for these Friday nights their whole lives,” Matich said. “And that goes for both East and Lone Peak.”

Salt Lake County Health Department spokesperson Nicholas Rupp told The Salt Lake Tribune that the East football team was exposed to COVID-19 and “elected to cancel their game.”

Brockbank expressed frustration due to the apparent ambiguity of health protocols this year compared to last year.

“It’s a little frustrating because it just doesn’t feel like this year there’s any sort of explanation or maybe even rules that we need to be aware of where they would cancel a game,” Brockbank said. “Last year it was much more laid out.”

Rupp said the county health department follows the state’s guidelines regarding school activities and exposure to the coronavirus. Those guidelines state that if an unvaccinated student is exposed to COVID-19, they have two choices: quarantine for 10 days or wear a mask during the activity for 10 days.

If, after seven days, a student is not showing symptoms and brings back a negative test, that student can return to the activity.

“If everyone had been vaccinated, they wouldn’t have had to worry about it,” Rupp said.

As of Wednesday, 39.8% of Utahns ages 12-18 were considered fully vaccinated. Across eligible age groups, 60.1% of residents 12 and over are fully vaccinated, per the Utah Department of Health.

In the 2020 season, the threshold for a game cancellation was if a total of three people within a team — that included players and coaches — tested positive, a game would not go forward as scheduled due to quarantines and contact tracing.

Brockbank said that his team put out a feeler via email to teams in an effort to play this week.

The cancellation of Lone Peak and East’s game due to the coronavirus is the second of its kind this season. Before the fall slate of games started, a positive test on Highland’s team forced its game against Bountiful to be canceled.

Several football coaches last week expressed some concern over the possibility of more cancellations due to COVID-19, and the apparent ambiguity over how a positive case will be handled by a local health department.