Most high schools in the state of Georgia are not letting COVID-19 beat them out of football this fall season.

The Georgia High School Association has left it up to the individual school systems to decide if they want to play, and Athens-Clarke County’s Clarke Central Gladiators are already three games into their fall 2020 season. 

Starting cornerback Scotty Randolph III is one of 27 seniors just grateful to be playing amidst a pandemic.  

“It’s very important to me because a lot of our seniors this year we rely on this season to go to the next level. Most states aren’t playing over there, but I’m grateful to be able to play this season for my senior year,” Randolph III said. 

Since Clarke Central is currently digitally learning, athletes do not have much interaction with others outside of football practices and games. This hasn’t bothered Randolph III, if that means he can continue to compete for his last season. 

“I’ve been comfortable with my teammates because our coaches try and make sure that we stay together, like we don’t do nothing outside of football,” Randolph III said. 

James Killian, Randolph III’s uncle and former Gladiator himself, said the athletes have taken this very seriously. 

 

Head Coach David Perno explained that Clarke Central has taken certain precautions to ensure the safety of their student athletes. 

The Gladiators take more busses to away games, each player is held responsible for bringing their own water bottles, and there are mandatory temperature and symptom checks before each practice. 

“Once we get on the field, there’s just not much you can do. Everywhere else, there’s protocol. Locker room, weight room, meeting rooms. But when you’re on that field and you’ve screened everybody… there’s only so much you can do,” Perno said.  

UGA Public Health Epidemiology and Biostatistics Department Head José Cordero explained that developing “bubbles” for the players as seen in the NBA could be an effective way to attempt to control the transmission of COVID-19. 

“Right now, we have pretty high transmission. I think that we have to be cautious about having games unless we have the best measures possible to reduce transmission,” Cordero said.  

Coach Perno realizes the rest of their scheduled games are not promised, and he is encouraging his athletes to live in the moment and not take anything for granted. 

“It’s not going away anytime soon, and we gotta move forward. Everything you got has got to go into Friday night’s game because next Friday may not happen,” Perno said. 

He has one piece of advice for his athletes for the remainder of this season: “Play every game like it’s your last one.”

Even though next week’s game is not promised, Killian believes what these boys are going through now will stick with them well beyond their 2020 fall season. 

 

Georgia Chambers is a senior majoring in journalism with a Sports Media Certificate at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

 

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