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Statesboro's Kaiser battling COVID
Statesboro High head football coach Jeff Kaiser, center, staff, and players get back to work on June 8 after getting the okay from the state and GHSA. Kaiser has been battling the COVID-19 virus and his Blue Devil squad has seen its first scheduled game of the season against Wayne County canceled.

The Statesboro Blue Devil football team had their season opener with Wayne County cancelled last week due to positive COVID-19 tests. Tuesday afternoon the Blue Devils were cleared to resume practice, but things were noticeably quieter as they were without head coach Jeff Kaiser.

Kaiser actually tested positive for COVID-19 last week, and was released from the hospital after a brief stay Wednesday afternoon.

“Coach Kaiser is certainly missed at school, and at practice as he recovers from his illness,” said Statesboro Athletic Director Patrick Hill. “He has assembled a high quality coaching staff including three former head coaches. In his hopefully brief absence, we know his staff will do an exceptional job in leading our Blue Devils.”

“We look forward to Coach Kaiser’s return to the school, and the sidelines,” said Hill. “As always Statesboro High continues to follow the most current GHSA COVID-19 guidance for football, and all of our athletic programs.”

The three coaches with head coaching experience are Greg Hill, Jack Webb and David NeSmith. There was no one named as acting head coach, or interim. 

“We all really miss him out here,” said NeSmith. “The kids miss him, and the coaches really miss him too. The coaching staff has really pulled together, and have had to take on some extra responsibilities. We are really just trying to keep things going, and prepare for Swainsboro.”

Kaiser was able to contact the team last week to let them know about having to cancel the Wayne County game, but it was up to NeSmith and the rest of the staff to have to tell them about Kaiser’s condition later in the day.

“We met in a team meeting last week, and it was really tough,” said NeSmith. “I told the seniors first, and then we sat the rest of the kids down and told them. They were disappointed they couldn’t play, but you could tell they were very concerned for Coach Kaiser’s well being.”

Not having a game this week means the first time the Blue Devils will square off against another team will be Sept. 19th at Swainsboro. NeSmith says the team has unfortunately been used to overcoming adversity, and feels they are focused on the task at hand.

“These kids have battled and persevered through this whole thing,” said NeSmith. “They have really practiced hard the past two days, and have shown great attitudes. When he does come back we will be able to tell him this is what these kids did and this is how they fought through it.”

If Kaiser is unable to coach at the Swainsboro game, plans are set for others to step up into new positions.

“The good thing is we have three former head coaches on the staff,” said NeSmith. “I can lean on them, and they can lean on me to get things done to fill the gaps.”

Statesboro will be at Swainsboro Sept. 19 with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.