The news was barely a half-hour old — hardly enough time for the reality to sink in — when Sam Hall decided he needed to express his feelings.
On Tuesday afternoon, Chattanooga Christian School football coaches informed their team that due to an increase in on-campus cases of COVID-19, the entire school population would be quarantined, which also meant the Chargers' quarterfinal game in the TSSAA Division II-AA playoffs would be canceled.
That's how the season — and for most of the 12 seniors, their football careers — would end. Not with a win or even a loss on the field after at least competing, but with a jolt, a door of denial suddenly being slammed in their face.
"I never got to say goodbye to football the way most players do," Hall said. "You know when the playoffs start that there will come a time, either after a tough loss or if you win the state championship, that you're going to have to say goodbye to something you've loved doing for a long time. But with the way our season ended, we didn't get to have that last game together or that chance to walk off the field and let it sink in.
"Every time you put that uniform on, you're representing your school, community and family, and there's so much tied into that piece of cloth that you wear on Friday nights. It's more than a game, and some people don't realize that. I never thought last Friday would be the last time I would ever get to wear that uniform."
So Hall, the Chargers' starting quarterback and one of those shattered seniors, went on social media to compose something of a love letter to the sport he had played since elementary school and the season the team was deprived of finishing.
The words came straight from the heart and showed a wisdom beyond his years in setting an example for putting the situation into perspective and finding closure.
The post read:
"I never thought this day would come, and especially like this.
"Thank you for always being more than a game. Thank you for the coaches and men you have put into my life to influence me so much to draw me closer to God and His purpose. Thank you for being an opportunity for me to show others my God-given talents so that I could play for His glory.
"Thank you for being something that would get me up in the mornings even when I did not want to. Thank you for being a distraction from everything else that was going on in my life. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be influenced by others and giving me a role to be able to influence others.
"Thank you for teaching me many life lessons that I will always continue to live out. Thank you for being a blessing in my life and the lives of many other kids.
"Thank you for the memories and bonds that were made and will never be forgotten.
"Thank you for the best years of my life. #4 Out."
Hall, a multisport athlete who was part of a promising CCS baseball team that never got to take the field last spring when the pandemic first hit, admitted he was appreciative of the eight games the football team did get to play but believes he — like many high school kids who lost the chance to participate in their chosen extracurricular activity — will always feel a sense of emptiness over the way the season ended.
"People say the thing you'll remember is your last game you played in high school," Hall said. "That'll be hard for a lot of kids who played this year because the memories will mostly be about what we didn't get to have. Of course there are memories of what you did do, but there will also be those moments where you have to think about the what ifs, the what could've beens.
"I know on Friday that every second of the day I'll be thinking how I should be getting ready and then that night how we should be playing. I'll have to find something to distract myself.
"Some people look at football as a dumb game of guys running around and just hitting each other, but the relationships you build with teammates and coaches are what mean so much. That's why it was so hard this week, just knowing we wouldn't have that chance to go out on the field together one more time."