The Madison Southern football team claimed a second-straight district championship with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Woodford County last Friday at home.
The Eagles, however, won't advance any further in the Class 5A Playoffs.
The school informed the Kentucky High School Athletic Association on Monday afternoon it was withdrawing from competition this season because of COVID-19 concerns within the program.
Madison Southern (6-3) was scheduled to take on Covington Catholic (9-1) in the regional title game on Friday in Park Hills.
"It is with a heavy heart that I write this statement," Southern coach Jon Clark said in a post on his Facebook page on Monday afternoon. "Due to COVID-19 hitting my home and our family directly, our team must withdraw from the state tournament and quarantine. I am mixed with emotions — being heartbroken for my players, yet so dang proud of all of them! We have all known from day one this could be a possibility and our team has played every game as if it could be their last game, which is evident in how they played."
Just after 3 p.m. Monday, the KHSAA's Twitter account posted that the game was considered a COVID cancelation and declared Covington Catholic the winner.
At 3:45 p.m., the official Madison County Schools Twitter accounted posted - "(Madison Southern) season cut short due to positive tests among staff and players. Great season for a great group student-athletes. Proud of their hard work and determination."
The Southern players were informed of the decision on a Zoom call around 4 p.m.
"By far one of the biggest disappointments through this has to be that our players found out about this via the KHSAA Twitter page and other media outlets before I ever had a chance to meet with them," Clark said. "That should never have been a possibility and it is truly a shame that they would even it set up the way they do. Our kids deserved better than that, period!"
Southern had COVID-19 related issues in the preseason, forcing several players and coaches to quarantine.
The Eagles lost their first two games, but bounced back to win six of their final seven games, with the only loss coming to state powerhouse Boyle County on the road.
Southern rolled past cross-country rival Madison Central, 44-13, on Nov. 6, then beat Collins, 35-14, in the opening round of the Class 5A Playoffs.
The Eagles advanced to the region title game for the third time in four seasons with a 23-21 win over Woodford County last Friday. Southern scored nine points in the final minute to claim the victory, highlighted by a 40-yard field goal by sophomore Jase Duerson with 10 seconds remaining.
Southern fell to Covington Catholic, 49-9, in last year's region final and also lost to the Colonels, 49-13, in the 2017 Class 5A state title game.
"I am proud of this group of young men," Clark said. "They exceeded anyone's expectations during a global pandemic and asked nothing in return. They battled every single day to make it to Friday night in order to provide some type of normalcy to their town and their families. We are grateful for the season we had and the moments that we shared."
Covington Catholic will play the winner of the Southwestern-Frederick Douglass game on Dec. 11 in the state semifinals.