This story was updated at 5:44 p.m. on Monday, July 20, 2020, with more information.
The Georgia High School Association Board of Trustees passed a motion Monday to push back the start of the GHSA football season by two weeks to Sept. 4.
The acclimation period will begin as previously scheduled on July 27 to start preseason training. The GHSA still plans to have teams play 10-game regular season schedules and a complete five-round playoff schedule.
"I'm happy they are moving forward with a 10-game schedule," Ringgold coach Robert Akins said. "I'm just glad to be back on the field. I think all the coaches are. You're still holding your breath about COVID-19, and that's not going to change."
After a motion to stick with an Aug. 21 start to the regular season was voted down, the motion to delay the season two weeks was approved unanimously, as was staying with a 10-game season and full playoffs.
A possible conflict is, with two weeks added to the season, the state finals would fall on Christmas weekend. Though the GHSA has not confirmed, it is believed the championships will be moved to the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Also Monday, the board said all other fall sports will begin on time, meaning the first softball games can be played Thursday, Aug. 6.
"I like the two-week bump, and especially the fact we can start the acclimation next week," Coahulla Creek first-year head coach Danny Wilson said. "However, we still need some clarification on a few things. The governor's emergency order doesn't expire until Tuesday and limits groups to 50, so do we have to start the acclimation period with split groups?
"The extra two weeks are good, though, because we're all behind and, this being my first year, we're making changes. I know our kids will be excited about it and they were all getting a bit frustrated."
The TSSAA Board of Control meets Wednesday, though as of Monday there was nothing on the agenda to discuss or vote on the start of high school football season in Tennessee. Several northwest Georgia teams are scheduled to face Tennessee teams in scrimmages that could be canceled.
"The thing this messes up is the scrimmages," said Akins, whose team is set to face East Ridge on Aug. 14. "I hope the TSSAA gets a plan in place that will work with us."
Some area coaches responded Monday with concern the delay was voted in to buy time as new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the state and that the season could still be in jeopardy.
"I think it still depends on how things get as far as getting the season started, but at least we can practice," North Murray coach Preston Poag said. "Unfortunately, it's (positive COVID-19 cases) going to happen all over the place. Even if we get started, I'm scared we'll start and everybody starts getting it and it all gets shut down.
"It's still a tough situation."
The reality of the pandemic hit home this past week when a Heritage High School player tested positive for the coronavirus, resulting in 48 players being required to quarantine and having practice called off this week. This comes a few days after Murray County coach Chad Brewer tested positive, causing the Indians to shut down for 10 days.
"It's our first case, and we couldn't be certain who was in contact with the player, so we shut down practice for the 48 kids who were in that workout," Heritage athletic director Eric Schexnaildre said. "Today's vote is a blessing for us to get the extra two weeks, but this situation also allowed us to sit down and talk about our process moving forward."
Still not answered is the question of whether fans will be allowed to attend games, something that could possibly influence some state school districts to consider not playing due to the financial impact if fans are not allowed.
"I don't know how having fans will look at this point," Akins said. "I don't know if pushing the season back helps because you're still having to enforce distancing. I know in our graduation they are allowing 1,500 people in our stadium.
"Are they going to limit it to 1,500 for football or are they going to let people in at their own risk? That's the biggest question to me, and I'm glad I don't have to make it."