TAMPA, Fla. — The Bay area’s oldest public high school boasts a new turf football field. 

Hillsborough High School’s ultra modern field is begging to be played on it. A brand new field for a brand new season. 

But before their games even kick off, the Terriers have been sidelined.

What You Need To Know

  • A lineman on the Hillsborough football team tested positive for Covid-19

  • It forced the cancellation of the Terriers Week 1 game against Gaither

  • Gaither will now play Chamberlain to open the season

“It’s gotten exponentially more difficult,” Hillsborough head coach Earl Garcia said. “If we get to the football part, that would be fun.”

It’s all fun and games until a pandemic hits your football program. And that’s what happened at Hillsborough. One of the Terriers lineman tested positive for Covid-19. Quarantine time for several players and assistant coaches exposed has reduced the team numbers and canceled their regular season opener on Sept. 11.

“It is difficult,” Garcia said. “It’s a whole different world.”

Hillsborough’s originally scheduled Week 1 opponent Gaither hasn’t had a positive test, but they are dealing with the ramifications of a program that has. Now the Cowboys will open the season against Chamberlain and then play the Chiefs again several weeks later.

“They are a resilient bunch,” Gaither head coach Kirk Karsen said. “It’s been amazing what they’ve been able to have to deal with and go through. These poor kids, they just go week to week not knowing when they’re going to get shut down.”



Hillsborough football had to cancel its Sept. 11 season-opening game after a player tested positive for the coronavirus. (Spectrum News image)

The domino effect is testing Hillsborough County Athletic Director Lanness Robinson’s scheduling skills. Robinson is in the business of managing all of the county’s sports programs. But he’s also in the business of making memories, memories that are hard to create in the midst of a pandemic.

“High school is all about the academics,” Robinson said. “However, that social piece, what we’ve learned over the last five to six months, that social interaction is invaluable. 

“All of us will tell stories about high school and most of it will be about something to do with a few different events, Friday nights being one of them.”

For these student-athletes, there’s nothing like Friday Nights. But it’s hard to get excited when your Friday Night Lights have been dimmed.

“This is a year unlike any other in history,” Garcia said. “And its really testing everyone’s mettle who likes or loves football. You’ll find out if you love football. Or if you love coaching.”

Coach Garcia still loves his job. He can’t imagine doing anything else. He dreams of a best-case scenario for his team.

“We have no more cases,” he said. “My coaches come back. My kids stay healthy all year. We win all the games and we have a great time in 2020.”

But Garcia is also preparing for the reality.

“The kids that are there are the ones we’re coaching for,” Garcia said. “Do the best you can, put a smile on your face. We get a chance to go on vacation every day, even if its not a chance to play ball every week. 

“So we’ll do the best we can.”

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