HENDERSON — Vance County High’s football team experienced its first major issue of the year with the COVID-19 pandemic this week.

Exposures to the virus within the program will keep the varsity program sidelined for the next two weeks, which has forced coaches to make a handful of changes to their 2021 schedule.

Head coach Wilbur Pender was disappointed to see the pandemic affect the Vipers, but he supports any decision that involves protecting student athletes, coaches and fans from the virus.

“The No. 1 priority is always the safety of everyone involved,” Pender said. “The county office made the best decision with the information they had.”

Vance County was set to play Northern Durham at home this Friday evening before the COVID-19 issues occurred. The game has been rescheduled and will now take place on Sept. 24, which was supposed to be the team’s bye week.

With no more free weekends available, Vance County will not make up a planned road matchup against Jordan on Sept. 17. The contest would have been the first time the two schools played each other since Vance County’s consolidation in 2018.

Pender said that Vance County’s ongoing situation is a reminder that COVID-19 remains a major problem throughout North Carolina, and that being responsible with masks and social distancing is crucial towards bringing the case numbers back down.

“As a community, we have to do a much better job of helping slow down the spread of the virus,” Pender said. “Football-wise, we’re going to stay in touch with the kids and host some Zoom sessions. We can’t let the momentum from Friday’s win [against Riverside-Durham] go to the wayside.”

Pender is confident that his players will be ready to pick up from where they left off once Vance County’s COVID-19 issues subside. Their matchup with Northern Durham in two weeks is set for a 7 p.m. start time.

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840

Contact Brandon White at bwhite@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2840