STATESBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - "You never know from one day to the next what’s going to happen.”
That’s how David NeSmith sums up high school football in 2020. NeSmith is currently serving as the acting head coach for the Statesboro Blue Devils football team, and has been since the beginning of September. Their head coach, Jeff Kaiser, is in the hospital for the second time with COVID-19 complications.
“One of the kids the other day came in and sat down and he said, ‘I was texting [Coach Kaiser] and said I love you coach, and we’re going to get this one for you Friday,'" NeSmith recalled.
The team heads to Swainsboro to open their season Friday night. The season opener cancelled due to COVID. They’ll be doing it without Kaiser, who is currently still at Memorial Health, but they say Kaiser has checked in daily on the team, and plans to stream the game from his hospital bed.
“I would be surprised if he didn’t call me on the phone during the game, or have somebody go down and say ‘you need to be telling them this’ or ‘you need to be doing that’, so just hoping his blood pressure doesn’t get too high,” NeSmith said with a smile.
NeSmith says that Kaiser’s infection levels are going down, and his oxygen levels are rising- a good sign. Another good sign?He said the Blue Devils had a good week of preparation, and have just a few players quarantined due to possible coronavirus exposures.
Their Friday night goal is simple: a win for their head coach.
“You know, I told him the other night, I said, my biggest motivation, and I know these coaches here, and especially the kids is not to let him down, and to keep going for him,” NeSmith said.
He calls the team resilient, as the Statesboro High School community has already lost their beloved basketball coach, Lee Hill from COVID-19 complications. That loss and now Kaiser’s battle has made their bond even stronger.
14-year-old freshman football player Key Parrish was also hospitalized with complications. Key’s mother said he is home and on medications. She said he is improving daily, but still trying to get his levels back to normal.
As for the big game, NeSmith added that four buses will be taken to Swainsboro for the game so the players can spread out and socially distance as much as possible.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.