The final week of the regular season.
I admit it. I never thought we would get to this point. Not with the way the coronavirus has raged through the country. I was pessimistic to the point that it was almost a certainty that there would be no high school football played this season in Georgia.
Well, the nice thing about being a pessimist is when something good happens you can be pleasently surprised.
The fact that we got to this point is a testament to the school administrators and the coaches for making sure every protocol was followed, and even more so to the players who obviously took the warnings seriously. They limited their contact outside of team activities and focused on just playing football.
The players should be commended, and I am most happy for the seniors who got to fulfill their final season somewhere other than the sideline.
It has been tough for those who were expected to garner a lot of attention from college recruiters. The NCAA made it difficult for players who may have been late bloomers by not allowing in-person visits, like Sprayberry running back Damarion Owens, to get those late offers. Hopefully he and others will still get that shot.
For others, like Harrison’s Marcus Bleazard and Jay Ziglor, North Cobb’s Nasir Howell, Kell’s Jamal Hill and Corbin LaFrance and Pope’s Joe Stellmach, they know they will likley be in the playoffs, and they will suiting up for college programs next year. The end of their high school careers are coming, but they will get to play the game again.
That is not the case for for the overwhelming majority of the seniors who played the final game of their career last weekend or those who will do so on Friday.
Football is not just a game. For many of the players it is a way of life. It is a regimented schedule and there is not a day, a week or a month that goes by that they are not putting the work in with the hopes of getting better, with the dream of playing at the next level, and ending the season by holding up a state championship trophy.
After Friday, for most of them, that regimine will be broken. If they don’t play a spring sport, the hours in the weightroom, the laughter in the lockerroom and the feeling of being part of a team may come to an end.
For those guys, they may not be putting a uniform on again, but don’t think for a second that your contribution to your team has gone unnoticed.
There are thousands of really good high school football players who will never get their chance to show it on the next level because they are four inches too short or run the 40-yard dash in 4.8 instead of 4.5.
There are tens of thousands of others who were part of the team for four or more years and just didn’t advance to the level of their peers for one reason or another. These players didn’t get into the game until the outcome had been decided, if at all.
Those players should be considered the unsung superstars within their programs. They are the ones who help everyone else by working on the second, third and fourth teams. They are the ones who block and tackle, the ones who step up when its hot, or raining, or cold and snowing. They are the ones who are the glue of the team and make the players who get the recognition and the scholarship offers better.
Hopefully, they have used their time as members of the team to learn discipline, sacrifice, patience and teamwork. While they may not be using those skills on the field any more, they can use them in every other walk of life.
In the end, high school football isn’t really all about those few who were blessed with God’s gift of talent and skill to play in college or the NFL. It’s about teaching everyone about life and helping those who are willing to put in the work become successful in the future.
Friday might close the door on some athletic careers, but what you have learned will open others as you start a new phase of your life.
You are what high school football is all about, and I, along with the fans from Cobb County, thank you.