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WITTNER: Resilience key to historic football season
Eastside FB
File | The Covington News

As the final seconds ticked off the clock at the end of Eastside’s loss to Jones County in the state quarterfinals last Friday night, one word continuously echoed in the chambers of my mind — resilience.

I don’t have to tell you, dear reader, about the innumerable complications that have come about in 2020. We’ve all heard about it, read about it and watched it unfold with our own eyes. Day after day, week after week, month after month. 

This has, in many aspects, been the year of adversity. And yet we as a collective whole continue to push through daily and do our best to adapt to the world around us.

It’s often said that sports mirror life, but I can think of no time in my 24 years when that adage has rung more true than it has in 2020. We’re all finding ways to be resilient in order to survive the seemingly endless gauntlet this year has thrown at us.

With Eastside’s defeat officially marking the end of the prep football season for our local teams, I found myself thinking about the resilience it took for all four programs to not only go forward with their respective campaigns in the midst of a pandemic, but to do so with resounding success.

We could all learn a thing or two from the world of sports about responding to adversity.

The 2020 prep football season was historic for the Newton County area. For the first time since 2009 — and just the second occurrence ever — Alcovy, Eastside, Newton and Social Circle all qualified for the opening round of the state playoffs.

First-year Social Circle head coach Rob Patton led the Redskins back to the postseason for the first time since 2009. 

Second-year Alcovy head coach Jason Dukes helped the Tigers earn their first home playoff game since 2011. 

Second-year Newton head coach Camiel Grant Jr. extended Newton’s postseason streak to nine straight years.

Eastside head coach Troy Hoff closed out his sixth season at the helm with his fifth straight playoff appearance, as well as the Eagles’ second trip to the state quarterfinals in three years.

Each program could fill the space of this column with the chronicling of their respective historic 2020 seasons. In many ways, each of their roads to success was paved uniquely — they faced different adversities, found different ways to win, wrote different narratives. But there’s one thing each of the four teams had in common this fall.

They were all forced to be resilient in order to obtain success.

Look, I’ll admit it. I was among those who doubted a high school football season could be played to completion this fall. When Newton County suspended all fall sports and extracurricular activities indefinitely on Aug. 17, I thought it spelled the end. Even when the suspension was lifted, my personal scale tipped more toward skepticism than caution optimism.

Clearly, I was wrong. One round remains in the GHSA state playoffs, but all four local football teams traversed their way through their respective seasons.

Alcovy, Eastside, Newton and Social Circle each deserve recognition for the way they handled themselves. Finding a way to play a season while keeping the health and safety of your program at the forefront is commendable in its own right. But when you’re able to do that and produced seasons of historic significance?

That’s true resilience.

Mason Wittner is the sports editor of The Covington News. He can be reached at