APPALACHIA — Football players at Appalachia High School are taught early on that a Bulldog never backs down from a larger opponent.
Ironically, it was a microscopic foe that kept Appalachia from taking the field against Clintwood at Riggs Stadium on Friday night.
The game was postponed due to a staph infection that resulted in the hospitalization of one player and the treatment and careful observation of several others.
“I hate it for the Clintwood kids. I’m sure they practiced as hard as we did this week. It’s a big disappointment for Friday to come up and not play the game,” Bulldogs coach Roger Austin said.
“We want to err on the side of caution. This is a dangerous thing. I’m worried for our kids and want what’s best for them,” Austin said. “By the same token, I don’t want Clintwood to get it, too.”
There has been no evidence that the staph outbreak is the result of unsanitary conditions at Appalachia High School.
“We keep things clean around here. I talked to our team doctor, Dr. (Michael) Ford, and he said it could come from anywhere,” Austin said.
One of the Appalachia players innocuously complained of a “spider bite” on his leg prior to last week’s game with J.I. Burton, Austin said. The player skinned his elbow during the Norton game and the infection evidently found its way into that open wound.
“That got to looking real bad. He came to school (Thursday) and got sick. When he got home, he was running a temperature of 104 and his mom took him to the hospital,” Austin said.
The player was admitted to the intensive care unit at Lonesome Pine Hospital, where he remains under observation, Austin said. The infection was deemed serious, and a culture has been sent off for analysis to determine whether the bacterial strain is of the antibiotic-resistant variety.
One other Appalachia player received treatment at the emergency room and was released, while a third was quarantined to his house. In addition, six other players were separated from the team by the school nurse and sent home for observation “just to be on the safe side,” Austin said.
After obtaining instructions from the health department, Austin said he and his coaching staff spent all Friday sanitizing the Appalachia field house. Helmets, shoulder pads, uniforms and other laundry also have been thoroughly sanitized.
The Bulldogs probably won’t practice Monday, he said. Instead, coaches will use the day to continue sanitizing smaller pieces of individual equipment.
“I have a bleach headache. I feel like I’ve bleached everything but the bleachers,” Austin said.