Whitefield Academy’s football schedule has had a hole punched in it by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Wolfpack lost one of the games for 2020 because of Thursday’s decision by Riverside Military Academy to cancel its full slate of fall sports.

The all-boys military boarding school in Gainesville released a statement on its website announcing the decision to its students and their parents.

“Currently, GHSA has banned interscholastic athletics indefinitely (with no indication of when that may change) because of the pandemic,” the statement said. “Having a safe and a healthy fall season requires substantial planning, writing of contracts, and early equipment purchases all of which would be binding even if the season remains banned by GHSA. Accordingly, fall interscholastic athletics at RMA are cancelled for the ’20-’21 academic year. We are planning for limited winter and spring sports in anticipation that the ban will ease at a point that provides enough time for us to execute appropriately. However, similar to the fall season, if GHSA continues its ban beyond our winter/spring decision points, those seasons may be cancelled as well. We plan to move forward with a robust schedule of intramural competition which will give cadets at the middle and high school levels the opportunity to participate in sports, though at an intramural level.”

Riverside has been playing football since 1908. According to the Georgia High School Association, the only season the program has missed in that time was 1916.

As of Friday afternoon, Whitefield coach Coleman Joiner was still waiting to speak to someone from Riverside about the cancellation, but he said he needed to get started on trying to find a replacement game for the Sept. 18 matchup, which was set to be played inside Wolfpack Stadium.

He started with a simple tweet.

“Anyone need a game on 9/18?” he tweeted.

However, Joiner said he has had to deal with something like this before.

“My first year at Whitefield, we had a game with an out-of-state team that got canceled,” said Joiner, who is entering his third season at the school. “We had to find a game against a (Georgia Independent School Association) team. It really hit us negatively in the power rankings. It’s not quite as bad this year, because we don’t have to deal with the power rankings, but trying to find a game this late is hard.”

Joiner said he was surprised to find out that Riverside had decided to cancel its fall athletic schedule at this time, especially since Georgia High School Association executive director Robin Hines said he was hoping student would be able to return to school campuses next month.

It has put finding a replacement game at, or near the top, of Joiner’s to-do list.

“It’s a difficult situation,” he said. “The (GHSA) requires our schedules be turned in by March. There can’t be many teams at this point looking for games.”

Joiner said the obvious place for him to start looking was with the other teams on Riverside’s schedule. In addition to Whitefield, Riverside’s non-region slate included Rabun Gap, which plays in the the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association, as well as Class AAA Cherokee Bluff, Class A Georgia Military and Class AAAAA teams Clarkson and Chamblee. Riverside plays in Region 8AA, which also includes Rabun County, Banks County, Elbert County and Union County.

None of those programs have Sept. 18 as an off date on their schedules, but with a new hole created by Riverside’s cancellation, teams may be able to juggle games to make the dates line up in Whitefield’s favor.

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