At times it seemed improbable that it would happen, but Friday is the kickoff of the high school football season for many teams in Northwest Georgia.
Due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), programs had their spring practice canceled, offseason workouts altered and schedules delayed, but the season is set to get started.
“It’s been mentally draining,” Christian Heritage School head coach Jay Poag said of the preparation for the uncertain season. “You just wanted to know. Is it going to happen, is it going to move. To finally have it set is great.”
Finally, players can move into the season with some clarity that had been lacking for the months leading up to it.
“I’m very excited,” said Kaleb Jones, a senior at Murray County High School. “I didn’t think I was going to get to play for the longest time, so I’m definitely excited to get to finally play.”
Northwest Whitfield head coach Josh Robinson said fall Friday nights of football are what he, his coaching staff and his players look forward to all year.
“We wouldn’t be out here doing this if we didn’t love it,” Robinson said. “Friday nights are what it’s all about.”
Friday night is the opening of the schedule for most football teams around the state, but the 2020 season has already started for a few. A handful of programs took part in games Wednesday and Thursday night in the annual Corky Kell Classic, which is held at various locations.
Now that players are back on the field, the headlining question surrounding the 2020 Georgia high school football season shifts from “Will it happen?” to “Will it finish?”
Protocols have been put in place by the Georgia High School Association, the state’s governing body for high school athletics, that spell out how schools should deal with positive COVID-19 tests.
Players, coaches and staff will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and have their temperature checked prior to each game. A positive test will lead to 14-day quarantine for the person and anyone deemed to have been in close contact with the person starting from two days before the test was given.
A few school systems and programs have voluntarily postponed the start of their football season due to concerns about the virus. The counties of Calhoun, Rockdale, Stewart and Twiggs have canceled the fall football season entirely.
“We’re all going to deal with it,” Dalton head coach Matt Land said of the virus. “The question is how much.”