All season, Key West High football coach Johnny Hughes has stated he will not believe a game is truly to be played until he sees both teams are on the field warming up.
It turns out that was not the case.
On Thursday afternoon, the Key West coaches and players loaded onto the buses to make the trip to Belen Jesuit for what was expected to be the season finale.
“When we were traveling I figured, OK, it was done and when we saw [Belen] on the field it didn’t even cross my mind that we wouldn’t be playing,” said Hughes.
So the Conchs proceeded with their pre-game stretches and warmups, when Hughes was approached by a Belen school official, who notified the coach the game would not be played due to positive tests at the Miami-based school.
Key West had been at the field approximately a half-hour when they were notified at 5:11 p.m., less than two hours before the scheduled kickoff.
“When they first broke the news, I thought he was kidding because I just saw [Belen] warming up,” said Hughes. “He told me they just received the news and my jaw must have dropped because he continued to apologize.”
The coach continued that he did not have an exact number of cases among the Wolverine athletes and students, with several conflicting stories coming his way.
“They said something like 22 kids, with something to do with a party and one of them ended up in the hospital with COVID, but he also has pneumonia,” said the coach. “At the end of the day, it’s just one of those thing you shake your head about because there’s not much we can do.”
Key West was hoping to make the game its seventh of the the truncated season and, in ways, it is much tougher to handle rather than the heart-breaking loss to Miami Northwest in the FHSAA playoff the week prior, according to Hughes.
“I can’t say I’ve ever had a team forfeit while they were across the field from us getting ready to play,” said Hughes. “We wanted the seniors to get that one last game in and just all the stuff they have been put through this year, I’ll tell you what, they have dealt with some adversity but they continue to amaze me with how they respond. Unfortunately, it’s a life lesson, but I just wish they didn’t to learn them all in a couple months here.”
Hughes expressed that his players were upset, but realized it was a possibility any time they had a game this season.
“They kind of adapted to that through the process, especially for the seniors because I know it hurt,” said Hughes. “But in the end we were lucky to be able to play, but their positive outlook on things continues to amaze me.”
Officially, the FHSAA has approved football games to be played until Dec. 19, so the Conchs could potentially play again this season, but with winter sports beginning, Hughes said there has to be a consensus among the players to find an additional matchup.
Even then, that game would not be guaranteed, that is until the ball is kicked off as Hughes and the Conchs found out Thursday.
“I’ll take a look to see if we can get something and if it happens we will go from there,” said Hughes. “I’m just disappointed for the boys, but it’s par for the course this year and I feel lucky to have gotten in the games we have now. 2020 just keeps on coming. ”