Brett Fowler is the sports editor of The Walton Tribune. He is a 2016 graduate of the University of North Georgia and a 2010 graduate of Monroe Area High School. Brett has been covering Walton County sports since 2011.

The night of my final football game as a Monroe Area Purple Hurricane, after we lost 18-15 to Rockdale County, I sat in the big painted M at the 50-yard line and bawled my eyes out.

Years of being wrapped up in the identity of being a football player were over with the sound of a horn on a scoreboard. I knew it was coming, I had tried to prepare myself for it the entire season, but it still hurt more than I ever thought it would. It was a tough pill to swallow and a moment I’ve relieved plenty of times in my head in the 10 years since.

At least I knew the ending to my high school career was coming.

That’s what hurts me so much about the current situation with high school athletics. COVID-19 has left current senior athletes unsure if they will ever get that chance to properly close out their high school careers. For some, college is right around the corner and they will still be playing the sport they love. However, for most athletes the cancellation of the season means the end of their athletic career all together.

It was originally just supposed to be a two-week shutdown, but as COVID-19 has spread more rapidly the future of the 2020 spring sports season looks bleak. The NCAA has already canceled its spring sports championships and many conferences including the Southeastern Conference in Division I and the Peach Belt in D-II have canceled the rest of the spring sports season.

Luckily for college athletes, the NCAA is granting an extra year of eligibility to seniors due to the recent events. But that likely won’t be the case for high school seniors.

Having a sport taken away from you in the snap of a finger isn’t the way anyone wants to their year to end. Even with a season-ending injury, players still get to be with their teammate and go through senior night. But with this, being with your teammates isn’t even an option.

I saw a slightly humorous, but also serious tweet earlier this week from an Ivy league baseball player that said “my career isn’t supposed to get ended by a guy in a suit. It’s supposed to end with a rollover to second base like it should.”

There are a lot of things that I wanted to soak in about my senior year. Hanging out with my friends who didn’t end up going to the same college as me, the prom after parties (or really just the parties in general) and walking across that stage and finally being able to turn my tassel. It sucks to think the Class of 2020 might not get those same opportunities. Once we get through this whole quarantine phase, make sure you hug a senior tight. They’ve had some precious moments ripped away that they won’t ever get back.