"What are sports as we know it? Fans, concession stands, bathrooms overflowing with people, musty buses, dank locker rooms, cheerleaders, bands, more fans, grandparents in the stands, more concession lines, travel time, celebrations, hugging parents, friends, other fans, seeing all of the administrators at the games, countless fence-walkers, full press boxes, rowdy student sections, pep rallies and everything else that goes into a typical Friday night in Georgia.
"All of that is gone until we have a vaccine. There’s no other way around it.
“Can teams take the field? Maybe. Will it be 100 percent safe? No. Is it ever? No. Will adjustments have to be made? Yes, a lot of them. Do players avoid locker rooms? Do they leave the field in their uniforms and gear with parents or in their own cars? Do they enter a tent, one by one, taking off their gear to be washed and properly sanitized elsewhere? Do they shower in smaller groups in the locker room or avoid locker rooms altogether? What will it look like? Will the stands be empty? Should they be?”
And six months later, the issues taking place in Region 5-3A continue to prove my statement true.
There is no denying that Cedar Grove’s use of an ineligible player caused it to forfeit four games, and rightfully so. But that issue didn’t almost keep the Saints out of the playoffs.
COVID-19 almost kept Cedar Grove out of the playoffs.
As it stands now, let’s run it. Albeit the abridged version. (And queue the circus music.)
On Nov. 13, Cedar Grove was forced to forfeit victories against Milton, Carver-Atlanta, Redan and No. 6 Greater Atlanta Christian. The forfeits gave GAC the 5-3A title and left the Saints – the class' two-time defending champion that has won three of the past four 3A titles – at 1-4 overall and 1-3 in 5-3A. The record placed them at sixth in the 5-3A standings with two games left -- Nov. 13 vs. Douglass and Friday vs. Sandy Creek.
The Douglass game didn’t happen. The Sandy Creek game won’t happen.
“We just wanted to be fair to Sandy Creek and just play football,” said Cedar Grove coach Miguel Patrick. “The best team would have won at the end of the day, and then we would have a playoff seed. That’s what we wanted. We wanted to earn it on the field. I even talked to coach (Brett) Garvin at Sandy Creek, and he even said he wanted to play and have his team earn it on the field. But that didn’t get the opportunity to happen.”
When Douglass canceled last week’s game against Cedar Grove, the Saints looked to the Sandy Creek game this Friday for its only chance at a playoff berth. And when Sandy Creek, which seemingly was locked in as the No. 4 seed if it didn’t play another game, faced COVID-19 issues and didn’t play against Redan last week and will not play Cedar Grove this week, the Saints' chances at a playoff berth looked grim.
The saving grace for Cedar Grove was that it picked up a forfeit victory against Douglass, a team that had been quarantined for two weeks prior to its scheduled game against the Saints, but -- citing safety issues and not COVID -- canceled the game.
“What happened there with our situation was that Douglass reached out to us prior to them cancelling the game saying, ‘We call (the game) and don’t feel that we can come back and play you guys on maybe two days of practice.’ So he did it for the safety of his kids. We talked about it and they said they were not going to play because he didn’t feel safe, not because of COVID.”
Initially it was ruled a no-contest and not a forfeit. But it was technically a forfeit because the Astros could have played.
“They never made it a thing that they couldn’t play us because of COVID,” Patrick said.
Picking up the victory allowed Cedar Grove – tied with Westminster at 2-3 -- the No. 3 seed in the region because its only victory after the forfeits was against Westminster (24-10) on Nov. 5.
So unless things change, Cedar Grove enters the playoffs as the No. 3 seed from the region and will face the No. 2 seed from Region 8 in the first round of the state playoffs.
It has been that kind of a crazy, confusing COVID season, and 5-3A is not the only place where the pandemic is still creating chaos.
In 2-3A, two games with region implications were canceled this week -- Pike vs. Crisp County and Peach vs. Central-Macon.
And how will the pandemic impact the playoffs? Stay tuned because it most certainly will.
Of the 45 games that are scheduled to be played in the 3A playoff bracket, I’ll make a guess that no less than five will be cancelled, and of those five, some of the best teams in the class might be forced to bow out of the playoffs due to quarantine protocols.