Two Athens High School football players testing positive for COVID-19 has forced the Golden Eagles to cancel their first game of the season and begin the following week with a Saturday night contest.

The positive tests were announced by the school Monday, and the decision was made to suspend all team activities until at least Aug. 20.

Athens was scheduled to begin its season at Fort Payne Aug. 21 before hosting James Clemens Aug. 28. With the Golden Eagles not being able to practice for nearly two weeks before the scheduled start to the season, the decision was made to cancel the Fort Payne game and move the James Clemens game to Saturday, Aug. 29. The game will kick off 7 p.m. at Athens Stadium.

“We're not coming back until the 20th, so (moving the James Clemens game to Saturday) gives us an extra day to prepare,” Athens coach Cody Gross said. “James Clemens was more than happy to do that, and I want to thank Coach (Wade) Waldrop for being accommodating.”

The Fort Payne game will not be made up, which gives Athens nine games to play this season instead of the usual 10. Gross said it was crucial for players and coaches to be diligent when it comes to the novel coronavirus.

“If this happens again, we could lose more games, or even not be able to play this season,” Gross said.

He said the players who tested positive are doing well and are not feeling ill effects.

While Athens is not able to have any team activities for the next week, the Golden Eagles are still able to have team meetings virtually and do workouts on their own.

Gross said it is much like the schedule the team had in the spring before workouts were allowed to start June 1.

“We're having Zoom meetings, FaceTime, calling and texting,” he said. “We're also sending them stuff to do on their own. We did it in the spring and it was important then, but obviously now it's even more important. But they have to do everything by themselves. Not only away from us, but away from a teammate.”

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