Monday was a return to normalcy for Flowery Branch’s football program. Two weeks after the rest of the state opened practice, the Falcons were finally in pads with the season opener against St. Pius X on Sept. 4 just four weeks away.
Falcons coach Ben Hall confirmed that his program missed time due to at least one positive test for the coronavirus.
And, in Hall County, Flowery Branch is not alone.
The Falcons are in the same boat as many of their county comrades.
East Hall and Cherokee Bluff have also missed practice due to the virus that has had a thumb on every part of our society since March.
“It’s awful to miss practice, knowing that teams you are playing (against) are practicing,” East Hall coach Michael Perry said. “However, our players' safety will always come before anything else. We are doing everything we can to minimize the risk. I don’t think the Average Joe has any idea what coaches are going through at this time.”
Bears head coach Tommy Jones confirmed his program shut down practice August 5-7 because of at least one player and a coach testing positive for COVID-19.
While everyone continues to take preventative measures to keep the virus from spreading, opportunities to grow as a program continue to dwindle, due to decisions made by the Georgia High School Association.
On August 6, the state’s governing body for high school athletics opted to cancel all scrimmage games. Most schools were going to have two dress rehearsals, due to missed spring practice when COVID-19 became widespread last spring. A decision to cancel the season or move it back to the spring seems like a worst-case scenario but also not at all out of the question with so many changes already made since 2020 spring sports halted right as region play was kicking off on March 13.
“Right now, the trouble is that every county is handling the coronavirus situation differently,” Jones said.
On August 8, Rockdale County, which is just 60 miles south of Gainesville, called off fall sports. Other school districts to make additional delays include Clayton County, Decatur City Schools and Stewart County, which is in southwest Georgia.
Gainesville coach Heath Webb remains optimistic that there will be a football season, a position he hasn’t wavered from this summer. Working in the Red Elephants’ favor is a six-game region schedule against schools all in Forsyth County. Webb believes the neighbors to the west of Lake Lanier will also keep the football season intact.
“I think they’ve handled dealing with coronavirus very well in Hall County,” Cherokee Bluff’s coach said.
Everyone seems to be on the same page that the season may start a little bumpy when the majority of teams start the season on Sept. 4, and the following week for Chestatee and East Hall.
“High school football in Georgia is so good because we build for success, spring scrimmages, preseason games and it builds for a good product,” Gainesville coach Heath Webb said. That may take a hit this season.
“But as long as we have 10 games in the regular season and the playoffs, I’ll be happy.”