The coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and resulting shutdown of public schools in the state of Georgia have taken their toll on athletics at the middle and high school levels.

On Monday, March 30, the North Georgia Athletic Conference's Board of Directors made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the 2019-20 sports calendar for NGAC members schools.

"In response to Governor (Brian) Kemp’s canceling all Georgia’s schools through April 26, as well as the cancellation of sporting events throughout the country and the world, the Board of Directors voted to cancel our spring sports seasons," NGAC President Lance James explained. "We, as a group, hate it for the student-athletes who will not get to compete for championships this year, much like they didn’t in 2011 when the area was hit by tornadoes. But we feel if we do return to school (in the 2019-20 school calendar year), the focus should not be on athletics at that time."

The decision affects local middle school baseball, soccer, golf and track teams, who were already dealing with trying to reschedule multiple games and matches due to weather-related postponements and cancellations, which plagued the early portion of spring sports seasons.

The NGAC soccer and baseball seasons began in late February, but teams had only played a handful of games due to weather before athletics were shutdown in response to COVID-19 around Friday, March 13.

Some golf teams were less than two weeks into the start of their seasons when things were put on hold and track teams had been slated to start up their approximate month-long season in the past 7-10 days.

With the exception of one final golf date on Monday, April 27, all of the NGAC regular seasons schedules for baseball, soccer, golf and track were set to be finished by Friday, April 24, the final day of the Governor's mandatory public school closing. However, the possibility remains that the Governor could extend the school shutdown past April 24 if the situation with the outbreak continues to get worse.

The NGAC soccer semifinals had been set for April 23-24 with the championship matches slated for April 27. The two-day NGAC track championships were scheduled for April 28 and April 30. The NGAC golf championship was also set for April 30, while the NGAC baseball tournament was set to run from April 28 through May 5.

The NGAC is comprised of 10 middle schools in four northwest Georgia counties: Catoosa (Heritage, Lakeview, Ringgold), Chattooga (Trion), Dade (Dade) and Walker (Chattanooga Valley, Gordon Lee, LaFayette, Rossville, Saddle Ridge).

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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