For the first time this season, the North Oconee High School football team had a positive COVID-19 test and canceled their Friday night matchup.
The Titans were scheduled to play against Jefferson High School last week. The teams won’t reschedule and instead prepare for the playoffs.
The game last Friday would have been the last regular season home game for the Titans. Starting quarterback senior Bubba Chandler took to Twitter to share his frustration about the cancellation. His tweet, “Just want to play,” received seven retweets and 48 likes by Tuesday.
Oconee County as a whole had 12 confirmed cases reported on Friday, Nov. 13, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health Daily Status Report. There have been 64 total confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Oconee County over the past two weeks.
The school found out about the positive test late Friday morning, and it wasn’t long before NOHS Principal Philip Brown emailed parents that the game had been canceled “out of an abundance of caution.”
“Obviously, we didn't have a football game Friday night,” NOHS athletic director Michael Dowis said. “But, you know, those things happen but we're good.”
Only one test came back positive but contact tracing typically links more athletes together at the high school level. Dowis said North Oconee followed every guideline from the Department of Public Health in regard to contact tracing and while he could not say how many athletes were quarantined, Dowis did say it was “enough that we couldn’t play.”
For seeding purposes, Jefferson was the winner of the no-contest match last Friday. North Oconee enters the playoffs as a No. 3 seed, but the Titans still don’t know who they’ll play yet.
Luella High School (6-3) will host Riverdale High School (5-2) this Thursday, and the winner will decide North Oconee’s opponent. There is a potential three-way tie with Fayette County High School included, but after the dust settles, the Titans will only have to worry about one school.
“I feel like we're a really good 4-5 football team, as crazy as that may sound,” Dowis said. “But given who we've played and the scores and how we competed against some of the best teams in the state, I mean, we're right there.”
If the Titans have adjusted to anything this year, it’s been adversity. The Titans lost all four of their non-region matches at the beginning of year to some of the best teams in the state.
For instance, Benedictine Military School out of Savannah defeated North Oconee 49-35 in late September. The 6-2 Cadets are currently ranked the fourth-best high school team in Georgia Class AAAA, according to rankings updated last Sunday by MaxPreps.com.
MaxPreps makes its rankings based on game stats and strength of schedule. Now at 9-0, Jefferson is ranked No.1 and North Oconee, now 4-6, is ranked No. 15 in Class AAAA.
The Titans don’t know exactly how long they will have to wait until they can suit up for on-field practice, but it probably won’t be this week. Dowis expects team workouts to resume later this week, when athletes start retuning from quarantining.
“Some kids are quarantined,” Dowis said. “But the vast majority of the students are in school, so we’re proceeding with school normally.”
The unexpected has become the expected in 2020. The Titans don’t know yet who they’ll play in the playoffs and who on their own team will be able to play then, but they are doing everything possible to try and be ready.
The Titans won’t have another home game this season, and every game from now on could be their last game in 2020.