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Holder, Rebels want to play
Randy Scott
Effingham County’s Devontra Bartley (center) blocks a Beaufort defender as wide receiver Randy Scott runs for a big gain on a rush around the left end during a 2019 contest. The Rebels defeated the Eagles 38-24. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

SPRINGFIELD — The South Carolina High School League agreed last week to delay the start of its fall sports seasons until September. The move impacts 26 Georgia football teams, including Effingham County and South Effingham.

South Effingham was slated to open Aug. 21 at Beaufort, which was set to host Effingham County the following week.

“We are still talking to them because they are hopeful they’ll be able to still play,” Effingham County head coach Buddy Holder said. “That’s the hope right now.”

Following challenging COVID-19 restrictions, Holder has worked to develop a workout routine for his athletes.

“We are disinfecting everything,” Holder said. “We’ve been doing that all summer. We have to vet them when they come in with checking the temperature, screening them with the screening questions. I have coaches disinfecting the bleachers where they were sitting.

“When they leave the weight room, we disinfect the weight room. It’s a mind-numbing process.

“It took an immense amount of planning because when we first started preparation, at that time, we were only allowed to work in groups of 20  so we had staggered groups. We used a middle school and the high school, so my coaches got used to disinfecting things.”

Holder has delivered feedback to GHSA officials about he thinks about the situation. He wants to see the season go on.

“I’ve been in multiple group texts of different groups and different committee members that reached out with two questions,” he said. “Number one — would you like to see the season go forth as is and keep rolling? Or would you like to shut it down two weeks and hope the COVID numbers drop to give the school systems a chance to make a decision on when to start school?

“Heck, we want to play. That’s our choice. And our school system wants to be in school.”

While teams are allowed to condition in groups of 50 now, Holder appreciated the smaller units of 20 as it provided a sense of team bonding and a spirit of brotherhood.

“(Permitting 50 players to condition at a time helps) but you are still hurt on your depth,” Holder said. “There are some kids and their families that are still fearful of COVID. They are not here and, with the smaller groups, you lost a lot of the team aspect.”

Holder also believes there’s a need for sports. He pointed out the significance of Major League Baseball during a time when the country was recovering from the Great Depression. 

In desperate economic times, sports provided a sense of solace and relief. Holder believes that in this season, where many have been shaken by the pandemic, football can do the same.

“That’s when (baseball) became America’s game and it brought the country out of that depression,” he said. This has got to be as close to a depression as it can be. People are mentally depressed. You need sports. 

“NASCAR has a big race coming up that is supposed to have twenty to thirty thousand people in it. That would be great to see that get off the ground — and see Major League Baseball get started. The NFL is already having workouts.

“People need that. It gives them some hope.”