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High school football: GHSA calls off preseason games, compounding doubts about 2020 season
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Flowery Branch quarterback David Renard drops back to pass as Marist's Bradley Kaminski closes in Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, during the first half of the Falcons game with the War Eagles at Falcon Field - photo by Scott Rogers

On Thursday, the Georgia High School Association said that all football scrimmages are called off, which further puts the status of the 2020 season in doubt.

GHSA executive director Robin Hines released the news around midday on the website for the governing body of high school sports, which contradicted his statement the day prior that no changes would be made stemming from its weekly meetings with the Sports Medicine Advisory Council.

Hines said the regular season will still kick off Sept. 4, a decision made July 22 to try and curtail COVID-19 cases across the state. Other states across the country have pushed back football season even further into the fall, while others like California and Virginia said football would not be played in the fall of 2020.

“At this point, we’re just happy to still have a season,” West Hall coach Krofton Montgomery said. “Our main goal is to be able to have a season.”

However, no football scrimmages add to mounting complications since the spring sports stopped on March 13 last year. Football programs in Hall County had no spring practice, which pushed one of two scrimmages to later in the month.

North Hall, for example, was set to scrimmage Redan and Flowery Branch in August. Now that has been scrapped for the Trojans, which will open the season with no dress rehearsal against Class 6A Paulding County on Sept. 4, if there’s a season at all.

“The delay to the season is a stressor to everyone involved,” North Hall coach David Bishop said.

Media reports swirled Wednesday that the GHSA was going to shut down the preseason schedule, but the GHSA’s statement Wednesday seemed to indicate that those were just rumors.

The GHSA’s announcement Thursday made it clear that it was not just sensational headlines coming from insiders in meetings at headquarters in Thomaston.

Now, questions arise about the decision-making of the GHSA and whether it is strictly a reaction to what higher levels of football have decided. The University of Georgia and Southeastern Conference, for example, decided last week to go to a conference-only schedule and set Sept. 26 as the date the season will begin.

With in-person classes for Gainesville City Schools set for Sept. 8, that means the football season with a road game at John’s Creek on Sept. 4 will take place first. City Schools will begin with three weeks of online instruction.

Hall County Schools will be back in session on August 24. The last two Hall County programs to open the football season will be Chestatee and East Hall, both on September 11.

Coaches have previously gone on the record advocating for football season to be moved back to the spring, while moving sports like baseball and golf (which have ample social distancing) to the fall.

Concerns about not having football season are starting to creep into the big-picture framework for financially sustaining high school sports throughout the school year.

Montgomery said, for example, the gate West Hall averages every other year for hosting Johnson in the Battle of Oakwood nears $20,000.

That helps pay for necessities to keep other sports solvent, paying for jerseys and game officials.

Without football, it starts to generate questions about other sports staying afloat, even though the GHSA has said it will do everything possible to play this fall.

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