The end is near. No, not the world as we know it. We’re told that only God knows that date.
Rather, in a few days, 2020 will make its exit, and good riddance. There’s no guarantee that things will get better. In fact, if the senate runoff goes badly on January 5, things could get much worse. But that’s a column for another section.
Psychologically, the calendar changing will at least provide the feel of a fresh start. But before I bid adieu to what will be one of the most memorable years in all of our lives, I’d like to take a final glance back at some of the most noteworthy moments, at least in my book, of the prep sports year.
Most of all, I’ll never forget September 4, a beautiful, late-summer Friday night, when high school football finally kicked off. It had been delayed a couple of weeks, but that’s okay, because there were serious concerns that it wouldn’t start at all.
I was at George Walton Academy, which was hosting cross-county rival Social Circle. The atmosphere was subdued, the crowd small, and masks were worn both on and off the field.
Ominously, the Bulldogs were holding Senior Night, which is usually reserved for the final home game of the year. But there was no guarantee we’d make it that far.
The same thing would be repeated around the county. Seniors the previous spring had lost their year-end honors, so schools made sure that didn’t happen again.
Fortunately, despite a few hiccups, the season played out. And there were plenty of compelling stories beside the pandemic.
In late October, tragedy struck one of our local teams. Davious Branch, a cornerback for Monroe Area, lost control of the car he was driving on a clear Sunday morning and wrapped it around a tree.
He survived and appears to be on the road to recovery. But at the time, it was touch and go.
The following Friday night, just prior to kickoff at the Purple Pit, I watched as a pair of his teammates walk to midfield for the coin carrying a No. 15 jersey in honor of their fallen comrade.
The ensuing loss to Oconee County, then the No. 2 team in Class AAA and the likely state champ, ended the Hurricanes shot at a region title. But it hardly seemed to matter. Funny how tragedy alters perspective.
Other memorable moments included seeing Loganville girls coach John Zorn earn his 200th coaching victory, watching Brock Vandergriff, the University of Georgia’s potential starting quarterback next year, carve up George Walton’s defense for the second straight year, and seeing Social Circle’s Logan Cross continue to develop into a premier college prospect.
Certainly, we’ll all be glad to put 2020 behind us, just because of what it’s come to represent. But it wasn’t without it’s redeeming moments.