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Staff photo by Robin Rudd / With the Jolly Roger flying behind him, a South Pittsburg football waits for the start of the Pirates' rivalry matchup against visiting Marion County in September 2018.

For the first time since 1954, the Marion County versus South Pittsburg football rivalry game will not be played.

Marion County High School found out early Friday afternoon that one of its players has tested positive for COVID-19, and by county health department regulations the entire Warriors team will not be allowed to compete.

"We're doing contact tracing now, and we're up to more than 100 kids who will likely be quarantined for 14 days dating back to this past Tuesday," said Mark Griffith, superintendent of Marion County Schools.

The second-oldest rivalry in Tennessee, Friday night's game at South Pittsburg would have been the 96th meeting between the intracounty rivals. Both teams were 3-0, with the Warriors ranked No. 5 in TSSAA Class 2A and the Pirates No. 1 in Class 1A.

South Pittsburg had won 12 of the past 14 meetings, including a four-game winning streak coming into this season and having won the past three meetings by a combined score of 161-31.

"I'm just in shock," Pirates coach Vic Grider said. "To say we're disappointed and upset would be a huge understatement. I'm heartbroken for our kids and especially our seniors because they have looked forward to this game all year. Really the whole community will be disappointed.

"It's a logistical nightmare because everything was already set up for the game, and now just a few hours before we're supposed to play, we get told this. I guess it's a product of the times we live in."

The game will officially go down as a no-contest. The most recent time the two teams did not play was in 1954, when the series was paused because of the threat of violence between the communities after a lopsided South Pittsburg win the season before.

Because coach Dale Pruitt's team will be under a 14-day quarantine, it will also affect next week's Region 3-2A game at Tyner. If the Warriors are unable to reschedule that game, it will count as a forfeit win for the Rams.

Contact Stephen Hargis at shargis@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6293. Follow him on Twitter @StephenHargis.

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