Originally, the Friday night high school football game between Huguenot and Thomas Jefferson was closed to only spectators due to a threat on social media.
Then a social media snowball started rolling downhill and by Friday afternoon the game at Huguenot had to be canceled as “additional information” made its way to public officials while safety and security concerns began piling up.
Richmond Public Schools had released a statement on Thursday evening announcing that the game would be closed to spectators, including media — but that the teams planned to play on with only officials, team personnel, bands and cheerleaders present.
As word spread that the game would be outright canceled instead of being curtailed, athletic directors at both schools were unable to comment on the situation Friday beyond what was said in the RPS statement.
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“Dear Huguenot Falcons and Thomas Jefferson Vikings,” the statement on rvaschools.net read.
“Unfortunately, due to additional information received today about safety and security concerns, we have had to make the difficult decision to cancel tonight’s football game between Huguenot and Thomas Jefferson. Please know that this decision was not made lightly but out of an abundance of caution for the safety of our students and community – which is always our first priority.
“RPS plans to reschedule this game and will continue to communicate additional information to the school communities as it is available. As a reminder to ensure everyone stays informed, we will consistently share updates through RPS Direct, Remind text messages, and our websites.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your continued support of RPS, Huguenot High School and Thomas Jefferson High School.”
Healing a community: Huguenot football revitalization takes on deeper significance
One Vikings player, senior receiver and defensive back Carmell McCloud, reacted to the news on X, formerly Twitter, on Friday afternoon. “Unfortunately due to circumstances out of our control my week 1 matchup vs Huguenot has been canceled,” McCloud wrote.
“See us matchup next Thursday for our home opener.”
Unfortunately due to circumstances out of our control my week 1 matchup vs Huguenot has been canceled. See us matchup next Thursday for our home opener 🍿🆘
— carmell mccloud (@melllo1k) August 25, 2023
The Huguenot vs. Teejay game is not the only Virginia high school football game to be canceled on Friday due to threats of violence.
Stafford High (Falmouth) was scheduled to play at James Monroe (Fredericksburg), but the Stafford Indians Football account on the X platform on Friday afternoon said the Indians would be forced to forfeit the game due to threats of violence against Stafford students.
Due to threats of violence against Stafford students, administration has decided that Stafford will be forced to forfeit tonight’s football game. Any questions or concerns can be directed to the administrative team
— Stafford Indians Football (@SHSIndiansFB) August 25, 2023
“Due to threats of violence against Stafford students, administration has decided that Stafford will be forced to forfeit tonight’s football game,” the Indians account wrote.
“Any questions or concerns can be directed to the administrative team.”
Coaches and players within both the Huguenot and Thomas Jefferson programs had hoped Friday’s game could be a source of healing for an RPS community still processing June’s shooting outside the Altria Theater following the Falcons’ graduation and prior to the Vikings’ scheduled graduation.
“We’re basically trying to make our presence known, that this is a safe space for the community,” Falcons coach Charles Scott said at a mid-August practice.
Thomas Jefferson- Huguenot football game cancelled
Scott, previously the coach at Life Christian Academy, is a counselor who also works with kids in the Richmond community.
He took on the project of revitalizing a Huguenot program that has struggled in recent years because of what Scott believes the program can do for kids in the city.
“The community loves Huguenot High School. So we’re bringing back the energy, the winning culture. It makes the community excited. So when you’re excited to do something, you put your energy behind it. It definitely can assist healing in that nature,” Scott said.
“I’m just wanting to see the community back to supporting the program, back to its success. Because I still personally believe that when a football program is good for a city and town, you can drop the crime rate in the city. It’s all positive energy if we do this thing right.”
The game was to be a clash of new coaching eras, as Scott’s tenure with the Falcons began alongside that of new Vikings coach Eric Harris, a Virginia Union alumnus who was in the offseason elevated from offensive coordinator to head coach.
Huguenot is next scheduled to host Clover Hill (0-1) on Sept. 7. Thomas Jefferson is slated to open its season at home next Thursday against Meadowbrook (1-0).