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High school football: Most asked still support going forward with 2020 season. Here's the opinion of some people involved in the game around Hall County.
09222018 FOOTBALL 006
Flowery Branch DJ Brown makes an interception from a pass intended for Gainesville's Justice Johnson at Bobby Gruhn Field on Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

It’s the middle of July and nobody has any idea when — or if — there will be a 2020 football season. Team schedules are in place but those were made before the coronavirus pandemic.

Rumors have circulated that there will be football if school goes on in person. However, Georgia High Schools Association media relations director Steve Figueroa said no decision will be made about fall sports until the end of the month. Since practice is scheduled to begin July 27, that’s not a promising sign that we’ll have a traditional football season. 

Fans in the stands? That’s almost impossible to imagine with current social-distancing measures in place. 

Despite the uncertainly, the 10 schools in Hall County scheduled to play this season (Riverside Military already called off fall sports) are preparing as normal, while abiding by safety measures put in place by the sanctioning body for high school sports in the state. 

The GHSA is going forward with plans to allow players to wear helmets, starting Monday. After each use, head gear must be sanitized.

Right now, the football season is schedule to start for most on August 21.

Here’s a sampling of thoughts and opinions on what should be done about the upcoming season:

Heath Webb, Gainesville High head coach: 

Man, I tell you, I’m of the opinion that we need football. I see on a daily basis what football means to young men on my team and what it does for growth and development of character and academics. (They have) A chance of changing their lives with a college education. It would be tragic to take that away. We have two players getting Division-I attention, but we have 10 others that have a chance to play at next level. Without a senior season, will they be recruited? If taken away, a chance to change their life is gone. Big piece of it. Even some of those kids who aren’t scholarship athletes come to school and stay eligible just for football. I worry what happens if football is not available.”

Brook Davidson, mother of West Hall senior quarterback and wide receiver Tad Davidson

Honestly, my greatest concern right now is that the kids might not be allowed to play. I firmly believe that if we are responsible, and follow the guidelines from state and local authorities, the kids can safely play ball. I am hopeful that the GHSA gets comfortable with a model that allows the teams to have fans in the stands. I am convinced that it is so important for our community, especially our children, to embrace as much normalcy as possible at this point. COVID-19 is here, and we have to consider that as we make decisions for our families, but school-age children are the group that is least effected by the virus, and for the sake of their mental health, physical health, and education I believe that return to school and return to sport is so important this Fall.

Chuck Hudson, North Hall High offensive line coach:

Absolutely I’m worried about coronavirus. It’s a scary thing. I think we should be able to play if kids buy into the severity of the issue. I think that we should play. In Virginia, they’ve cancelled the season and in Texas they find out (Thursday). I think if enough states start cancelling that it could have an impact here. (Georgia) might do region games only. Shrink the season and play six games instead of 10. I think that would be fine. We might have a better chance of having a season.

Jeff Brumbelow, Flowery Branch High defensive backs coach:

“Ultimately, we just have to wait to see if we’ll play. From a standpoint of, I guess, me personally, I don’t have a big fear of playing and everything that goes into it. It’s important to get back as close to normal as possible. We’re operating under the assumption that we will play. We’re preparing like we normally would, but have to be honest and upfront with the players. We’re getting info on a weekly basis.”

Michael Perry, East Hall High head coach:

I mean, it just seems to me honestly unlikely that we’ll have football in the fall. Of course, I want it to happen. You look at what all the Power 5 (colleges) and NFL are doing, and we’re high school. It’s just my personal opinion, but I think it would be wise to move (the season) to the spring. (Right now) We might start and have to shut down. If we move the season, it gives more time to maybe find a vaccine and a chance to play a complete season. We tell (the players) we have no idea what’s going to happen. All we can do right now is come in and focus on what we’re working on today. If they’re smart about it, (GHSA) will have football played in March, April and May. I love football as much as anyone, but to me, I consider my wife (Elia) is coming off having breast cancer and I would hate to be the reason ‘Johnny’s grandmother’ gets coronavirus. We have to follow the guidelines. What’s frustrating is we’re running out of time. Someone has to make a decision. What we’re doing now is all voluntary (workouts). These guys need football. It’s the greatest team sport there is. If we try to play in the fall, we’ll get shut down. Play one or two games, then what? If we can’t sit in cafeteria (at school), how will we have football? (It’s) very real to our players. (Coronavirus) does impact a certain group. If it could kill someone, it’s not worth having football. If it’s moved to spring, at least we’ll have a chance. It would be a disaster to start, stop and try to restart it later.”

Ced Nicely, Gainesville High offensive lineman:

“It means everything to me to be able to play football since I’m a senior. You only get one senior year.”

Stacey Latty, mother of North Hall junior offensive lineman Jarrett Latty 

“I have no concerns whatsoever. I would be more afraid of an injury from playing the game than (him getting) coronavirus. It’s not as contagious for his age as adults. At this time, the virus is not going anywhere. Football is the highlight of his school year. He eats, sleeps and breathes football. We as a community have to adapt. I’m definitely going to be their on Friday nights. I guess I would understand if maybe not having the stadium at full capacity. At the very least, parents should be able to attend the games. 

Mark Wright, Gainesville High Touchdown Club President and father of freshman quarterback Baxter Wright: 

“Let’s get it going! Having football is a breath of fresh air. I think with the information we have, they’re taking the right steps. I think it’s important for the parents to make the decision for their (own) kids. Right now, we have 98 on the roster. Kids being together and playing football is huge for our community.” 

Austin Copper, North Hall junior offensive and defensive lineman:

“I think it’s kind of the same for everyone. There’s health and safety concerns but everyone wants to get back on the field. I think our coaches and everybody else are doing their best to keep everybody apart (in conditioning). I’m not overly concerned about getting into practice. I definitely hope we have a season."

William Harrell, Johnson High head coach:

“In an ideal world, we want football, but we’ve told guys we can only control what we control. People higher up decide that. Some have expressed concerns in what comes down the pike, but we can only control the controllables. Until we’re told otherwise, we’ll prepare as normal. We sanitize as much as possible. We can’t be perfect, but will do what we can to mitigate concerns. If parents have concerns, they can come to us. 

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