THOMASVILLE – The first date that Georgia High School Association (GHSA) football teams can practice in full pads is Saturday, Aug. 1. Thomas County Central will start on Tuesday, Aug. 4. The Yellow Jackets' first scrimmage was originally scheduled for Aug. 7 against Brooks County but since has been moved back to Aug. 21.

Reshuffling schedules is becoming the norm in the age of the coronavirus pandemic. Central coach Ashley Henderson, whose team's delayed start in full pads is attributed to a couple of players being behind due to quarantine, said his team was relieved to hear the season would not be interrupted but just delayed a couple of weeks.

“I think there was almost a sigh of relief because everything you hear about is, who's canceling this and that?” Henderson said. “I think in the back of our guys' minds, they were glad to hear we're playing ball. Kids are very resilient but that certainly did help to hear that, I know that for a fact.”

Henderson's Yellow Jackets are in the midst of a week-long acclimation period mandated by the GHSA. It's been a summer unlike any other for Central and other schools. After missing spring practice because of the pandemic, teams reconvened on June 8 under strict guidelines. 

The GHSA has loosened the restrictions over the course of the summer but teams still have to be mindful of the original guidelines that are still in place.

“It's been a challenge and the kids have handled it well. I've been proud of them,” Henderson said. “Now it's back to very similar to what we're used to with acclimation period. It gets you five days in and then go full pads and roll. It's definitely exciting. It's that same buzz in the air. It's almost like a kid on New Year's Day. 

“Our first day won't be until Tuesday in full pads. We'll be two days behind but it is what it is. We had to try to let that thing run its course and be sure everybody's healthy and go from there.”

The GHSA confirmed on Monday, July 20 in a unanimous vote from its Board of Trustees that the regular season would start on Sept. 4. It's a move that benefits all teams.

“I think in society's cancel culture right now, they're not talking about canceling, they're trying to find ways to do it. I think that's very encouraging,” Henderson said.

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