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story.lead_photo.caption South Callaway's defensive line rushes the Cuba offense during a game earlier this month in Mokane. Photo by Daniel AuBuchon/Special to the Fulton Sun

MOKANE — The situation couldn't have played out more favorably for the South Callaway Bulldogs.

Despite having last week's regular-season finale at Wright City canceled due to the school district's move to distance learning and subsequent shutdown, South Callaway was still able to lock up the top seed in Class 1 District 2.

That meant the Bulldogs (5-3) earned a bye for tonight's opening round of district play and won't be scheduled to play again until hosting a District 2 semifinal matchup next Friday. That also worked in South Callaway's favor since the district's Plan D involving distance learning wasn't scheduled to end until this afternoon.

South Callaway students are expected to return to in-person classes Monday.

The circumstances and how they impacted his football team weren't lost on Bulldogs coach Zack Hess. South Callaway hasn't played since Oct. 16, when the Bulldogs lost 55-14 at Bowling Green.

"We feel very fortunate and blessed with the timing of it and how it went down," Hess said.

With in-person practices prohibited this week due to the district's shutdown, Hess and his coaching staff opted to back off on football-related matters.

"We felt like we wanted to give the players their space to focus on distance learning," Hess said. "We didn't want to overload them."

Hess added he and his assistants intended to call players throughout the week to assess both their welfare and academics.

"We want to see how they're doing and check with them on how they're doing with their schoolwork," Hess said. "That's the most important thing.

"We will not see the players until Monday (for practice), and we're OK with that. We'll knock the cobwebs off a little bit."

With time off tonight, Hess and a group of coaches were scheduling a trip to third-ranked Thayer in the south-central part of the state to scout the Bobcats' District 1 game against Crystal City. The District 2 champion will advance to face the District 1 winner in the Class 1 quarterfinals Nov. 20.

Hess noted he had exchanged game video with the coaching staffs from No. 4 seed Father Tolton (1-5) and No. 5 seed Paris (3-6). The Bulldogs will host the winner of that District 2 first-round contest in the semifinals.

Hess was also sending assistant coaches to scout tonight's District 2 game between host and No. 2 seed Mark Twain (3-5) and No. 7 South Shelby (0-7).

"In conversations I've had with the coaches the last few days, we're excited to get back at it," Hess said. "When you prepare week to week and day to day (for games), it's hard to go from 60 to zero.

"It's kind of a weird feeling."

Hess pointed out he and his coaches are eager to reunite with their squad to begin the postseason run.

"We're pretty excited to get back and see the guys," Hess said. "We're excited about the opportunity to finish this season strong, but the players have to come back with the right mindset."

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