By Tris Wykes

LEBANON – Chris Childs appeared a bit haggard Wednesday after Lebanon High football practice. The 14th-year head coach has a 9-to-5 job, of course, and he dedicates untold hours to the Raiders. However, Childs thought there was an additional factor sapping his energy.

“All this Covid stuff,” said the coach, whose undefeated team was preparing to host Plymouth (5-0) in Saturday’s NHIAA Division II semifinals. “You’re trying to make sure your kids are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and worrying every other minute that an announcement’s going to come and take it all away.”

Chris Childs

Unfortunately for the Raiders (6-0), word along those lines came not even 24 hours later. Lebanon High officials were notified Thursday afternoon that Bow, the foe their school had beaten in last Saturday’s quarterfinals, had reported a positive Covid test for a player who competed on offense, defense and special teams in that contest.

Mike Stone, Lebanon’s athletic director, said via text Thursday night that Lebanon hopes to hear from state health officials Friday with a definitive ruling on whether the game can go on.

Raiders player Cole Shambo said his team gathered for the start of Thursday’s practice but knew something was amiss and suspected a Covid-related problem. Everyone was there except Childs, Shambo said, and the head coach is never late. In addition, his pickup truck was parked near the school’s administrative offices.

“We cried when Childs told us,” Shambo said. “He did too; there was nothing we could do.”

Said the coach: “It was a crushing blow. To go out and tell your kids that we’re not playing, that broke my heart.”

Childs said he holds out hope the game can be staged, but isn’t quite sure what happens now.

“I don’t know all the laws and rules,” Childs said. “I’m praying we can do this, but in my heart, I know we want to make sure it’s safe.”

Lebanon High quarterback Jack Stone heads for the end zone.

Pelham High, a school in southern New Hampshire, originally forfeited its football playoff opener late last month because a student not on the team tested positive. 

The game was resurrected and played several days later after Pelham players quarantined for 48 hours without testing positive, reported the Lowell (Mass.) Sun newspaper. Several Pythons who had more closely crossed paths with the infected student were held out as a precaution. 

Pelham’s opponent, Campbell, graciously agreed not to take a forfeit victory and to play the game on the field, where it lost. Unbeaten Pelham is scheduled to host Stevens on Saturday for the NHIAA Division III state title game. Stevens advanced without playing its semifinal against Winnisquam, which forfeited the game because of positive Covid tests.

Lebanon football players headed to local health providers once Thursday’s news was delivered. 

“It’s been a fear the whole season,” said Lebanon assistant coach Randy Shambo, standing outside an urgent care facility where his son had just received a negative result on a rapid-process Covid test. “This would be a really bad way for the season to end, for the seniors to go out.”

Cole Shambo (22) and Stephen Miller.

Randy Shambo said four players had already received negative results and departed, while four others were undergoing the process inside. 

“The stick they put up your nose is like 10 inches long,” Cole Shambo said with a pained expression. “They moved it back and forth like three or four times and it burns. It’s awful.”

Lebanon’s roster features five seniors, all of them starters and three who do so on offense and defense. Those players are Calvin Bates, Jake Hibner, Jon Carrier, Josh Mondragon and Logan Sanchez. 

Bates was a member of last winter’s Raiders basketball team when its season was halted during the playoff quarterfinals because of Covid. Lebanon’s girls basketball team was handed a share of the NHIAA Division II state title after the final couldn’t be played because of the virus.

Childs didn’t envision a night of sound sleep waiting for Friday’s ruling. He watched video Thursday night, trying to see how much interaction the infected Bow player had with his players during the quarterfinal game, won by Lebanon, 30-6. Did the boy not get infected himself until after the game, Childs wondered? 

“Never in my wildest dream did I think it would come down to this,” he said. “It’s one thing if one of your own kids gets sick. But to not be able to play because of what happened in another school, that’s a tough pill to swallow.

“Hopefully, we get a chance to play. I just want a chance. But I also don’t want to play with any doubt that we’re doing the right thing.”

If you found this story worthwhile, please consider donating to support the work that produced it. 

Octopus Athletics is an independent site covering sports in the heart of the Upper Valley. Your contributions allow us to bring you news without paywalls or pop-up ads.

Calvin Bates