Bennett-McQuaid state football game postponed due to COVID outbreak

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The Buffalo Public School Superintendent has issued a statement in response to the Bennett-McQuaid playoff game that was postponed Saturday evening in a multi-jurisdiction COVID conflict that ended up in court.

Dr. Kriner Cash, the BPS Superintendent said Sunday evening:

“We have seen a highly disturbing precedent occur with the Bennett/McQuaid football contest case. To date, it does not embody a spirit of equity, fairness, and good sportsmanship. The game clearly should have been forfeited due to the significant Covid-19 outbreak on the McQuaid team. Health and safety must always be the first priority for everyone. Neither BPS nor NYSPHSAA have been privy to the injunction documents allegedly filed with the Court. If this case is not heard tomorrow or Tuesday morning and properly resolved, we will call an urgent press conference and invite all relevant local and state authorities to stand with us. This is fast unfolding as a racial injustice and inequity issue. I will not tolerate, under any circumstance, victimizing and discounting our student athletes when they have followed all the rules pursuant to this matter. As a District, we are fully prepared to take immediate appellate action to ensure a safe, fair, and just outcome.”

The game was supposed to happen in Williamsville Saturday evening between McQuaid Jesuit High and Bennett High School in Buffalo. COVID health restrictions are apparently different enough from McQuaid’s rules that the issue ended up in front of a judge. The decision to postpone the game came from NYSPHAA, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Saturday afternoon.

McQuaid says team members were on the buses ready to go when they got the news. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz took to Twitter Saturday night saying a meeting with multiple agencies including here in Monroe County and an order from NYSPHAA was the deciding factor to call off the game due to a COVID outbreak on the Rochester team.

Kick-off was slated for 6:30 p.m. in Williamsville Saturday evening, but earlier this week, some players and an assistant coach tested positive for COVID. McQuaid says they put the team on a 72-hour pause for contact practice. The members that tested positive were required to isolate. However, the night before the game, the Erie County Department of Health said only vaccinated people could participate. McQuaid went to court and got a restraining order so its players could play.

McQuaid issued a statement later Saturday night saying:

“This afternoon we were informed by Robert Zayas, the executive director of the New York Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) that tonight’s New York State Regional Final game would be postponed. This postponement comes after the Honorable Marc A. Montour of Erie County Supreme Court awarded McQuaid Jesuit a temporary restraining order against the Erie County Department of Health this afternoon. On Friday evening, the Erie County Department of Health indicated it would only permit vaccinated McQuaid Jesuit players, coaches, and managers to compete in the Regional Final because some players and an assistant coach tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week. The game was scheduled to be played in Williamsville, located in Erie County. Per McQuaid Jesuit’s protocols, the varsity football team was placed on a 72-hour pause for contact practice, effective the evening of Tuesday, November 16, after two members of the team tested positive for COVID-19. With guidance received from the Monroe County Department of Public Health, McQuaid Jesuit tested all players and coaches for three consecutive days beginning Thursday morning. All players and coaches, whether vaccinated or not, were tested Thursday, Friday, and again this morning with negative tests each day required to participate tonight. Testing did result in several more positive cases which have been reported to the Department of Public Health. Any members of the program who tested positive were immediately required to isolate. McQuaid Jesuit’s COVID-19 data is publicly available at the NYS COVID-19 School Report Card website. Throughout the testing process, McQuaid Jesuit leadership was in regular communication with the Monroe County Department of Public Health, Section V officials, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, and our counterparts at the Buffalo Public School district. We were prepared to proceed with tonight’s game after ensuring a healthy and safe outdoor environment for all in accordance with recommendations from health officials. McQuaid Jesuit’s players and coaches learned of Zayas’s abrupt postponement while on the buses waiting to depart. “All of us hope that we can allow our players to safely compete in a game they have worked so hard for,” says McQuaid Jesuit President, Fr. Phil Judge, S.J. “We look forward to that opportunity in the near future.”

NYSPHAA ultimately decided to postpone the game. In a statement released Saturday evening, it said, "The signed temporary restraining order prevents the Erie County Department of Health from enforcing public health COVID regulations".

Poloncarz took to social media saying, “McQuaid tried to force the game to be played by judicial order, in contravention of health departments standards, but to the credit of @NYSPHSAA they postponed the game until a full court hearing can be held in the next few days. I would have postponed it if necessary.”

News10NBC has reached out to Monroe County officials for a statement. We are waiting to hear back. NYSPHSAA says the game has been rescheduled tentatively to Nov. 23.