CANTON, Mo. -- Andrew Rupcich and the rest of the Culver-Stockton College football players followed every protocol put in place to combat the coronavirus since their return to campus in hopes the inevitable wouldn't happen.
Still, it has.
The Wildcats had their season interrupted Tuesday by the pandemic as several players were forced to go into a 14-day quarantine after contact tracing put them within the vicinity of a positive test result. The next two games -- Saturday at home against MidAmerica Nazarene and Oct. 10 at Missouri Valley -- have been postponed.
C-SC is expected to return to the field Oct. 15 at Grand View in the Heart of America Athletic Conference North Division opener.
"Everything this season is not guaranteed," said Rupcich, the All-American senior left tackle. "We've been prepared for it all along. It's one of those things that is upsetting because we've worked so hard for this season, but it's not going to take us away from what we set out to do."
Nor will it change the way the college addresses pandemic concerns.
"We're doing everything humanly possible to try to play, but the virus eventually wins," C-SC athletic director Pat Atwell said. "It's a difficult virus to contain. We will do what we're supposed to do and hope we can play in a couple weeks."
For now, the impacted players will be quarantined to their dorm rooms while the remainder of the team continues practicing and preparing for Grand View.
"They understand they have to do what's best for everyone on this campus by staying quarantined," C-SC coach Tom Sallay said. "We keep texting, SnapChat, Twitter and everything to stay connected to them. We've let them know repeatedly they're still a part of it."
Sallay said it has intensified the family atmosphere the program has created.
"It's not only the coaches taking care of them," Sallay said. "Their teammates are taking care of them."
It's keeping everyone engaged despite the tough circumstances.
"We're still students," Rupcich said. "We're still taking classes and doing homework. We will keep working out. We have to be ready when we get the chance to play."
An original 11-game schedule was reduced to nine before preseason practices began by the NAIA in an attempt to control the spread of the coronavirus and give teams a full season of competition. The NAIA also moved the football playoffs to the spring and gave conferences the opportunity to shift their schedule to the spring.
The Heart opted to play this fall, but left open the window to play in the spring.
"The (school) presidents haven't gotten there yet," Atwell said of discussions about moving games to the spring. "They want us to make every effort to play in the fall."
One reason is to avoid logistical nightmares by overlapping spring sports.
"Boy, the strain on your athletic staff and your trainers with all your sports going, we're really conscious of that as well," Atwell said. "Can you do it and can your facilities handle it?"
Those aren't concerns Sallay has right now. He and his staff are zeroed in on the health of their players and the preparations to play Grand View.
"We're going to work and prepare for what's next," Sallay said. "That's our focus."
But the lingering concern whether the next game will be played exists.
"There's so many unknowns," Rupcich said. "We do all we can to stay safe, but the way things have gone with this virus, it's something that is inevitable."