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Team-wide illness blamed for Tiger forfeit

The New Richmond school administration took the rare step last Friday, Aug. 25 of deciding to forfeit that night's football game at Rice Lake because a large number of the Tiger players had fallen ill in the previous 24 hours.

New Richmond football coach Keith Badger said there has not been a conclusion made on the cause of the illness and the school district is working with the Department of Health on the subject.

Badger said it is difficult to pinpoint when the illness began. He said several players exhibited illness earlier in the day Thursday and that an assistant coach was ill on a team bus earlier in the week. Even back to the Aug. 18 game at River Falls, a Wildcat player became ill on the field. The Tigers held a team meal last Thursday evening. Badger said all of these instances make it difficult to narrow down exactly what caused the illness, or what type illness that's being dealt with. He said about half the players who ate at the team meal became sick, but said there was a random pattern among them on who became ill.

"There's a lot of randomness. It's very complicated because there are so many variables," Badger said.

Last Friday morning, Badger heard from a player that he was sick. Then the parent of another player texted that he was ill. Badger immediately sent out a team-wide message for everyone to be careful about cleanliness and the possibility of a spreading illness.

"That's when my inbox lit up," Badger said. He said "upward of 20 players" were ill, many of them starters. That, plus the possibility of passing a potentially contagious illness to students at another school district, led to school officials making the decision to forfeit the game.

Badger said that there was a player who became ill Sunday, but he hoped that was the end of the outbreak. School officials were also watching for a second wave of the illness, so cleaning plans were made around the school to cut down the possibility of spreading the illness.

The Tigers lost out on their chance to play their final non-conference game, and Rice Lake's staff felt the same way.

"Both of us wanted to play. It's become a pretty exciting rivalry for both of us," Badger said.

The Tigers are scheduled to host Baldwin-Woodville on Friday. That still remained secondary at the start of the week, as the coaches and school staff checked to make sure the sickened students were hydrated and eating as they tried to regain their strength.

"We'll install things as best we can," Badger said, in trying to prepare a game plan for Friday.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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