There were plenty of strange endings to high school games over the weekend, but none were as odd as Georgia matchups between Jackson County and Johnson-Gainesville and Hart County and Franklin County. That's because neither game actually ended, at least by conventional measures.
According to the Gainesville Times and The Jackson Herald, Jackson County emerged victorious from its season opener after playing just two quarters. When the two teams went to halftime with Jackson County holding a 14-8 lead, a violent lightning storm broke out. The teams waited out the weather delay for two hours, at which point officials called the game off for safety reasons, as per Georgia High School Association regulations.
"We're going to take it, we're 1-0, but I don't like it anymore than anyone else likes it," Jackson County coach Billy Kirk told the Gainesville Times. "But to come out and beat a AAA team is huge."
A game called at halftime between conference foes would have to be resumed or restarted at another date. However, since Jackson County (AA) and Johnson-Gainesville (AAA) play in different classifications and different leagues, GHSA rules dictated that whichever team was leading at halftime was declared the winner. This time that was Jackson County, which edged into the lead with a touchdown by running back Austin MacDonald with just 10.6 seconds left in the half.
Meanwile, a similar fate befell another non-league game, between Hart County and Franklin County. According to the Anderson Independent Mail, the two teams settled for a 14-14 tie after they were delayed for two hours during the break.
How did a halftime weather delay stretch to two hours? Here's how Georgia deems weather safe for competition, as explained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Each time an official notices a lightning strike, they're required to make sure no more lightning is seen in the following 30 minutes. In this case, there were continuous lightning strikes for more than 90 minutes, meaning that there was no possible way safe play could resume within the two-hour window given by the GHSA.
As you might imagine, Johnson-Gainesville coach Paul Friel was none too happy with the loss and the decision not to play a second half.
"I just wish they'd be a little more clear if it's based on sight or if it's based on a lightning detector," Friel told the Gainesville Times. "I don't know what the point of a lightning detector is if there's any flash and they restart the clock."
As rare as it may seem to have a game shortened to a half by lightning, the exact same scenario unfolded in front of Jackson County just four sesons ago, also in a season-opener. In that 2007 kick off matchup, the Panthers trailed Banks County 14-0 at halftime, and lost the game by the same score.
Fate and the rain were more generous to Jackson County this time around, a twist that Kirk appreciated fully.
"We experienced the same scenario four years ago and we were on the short end of the stick," Kirk said. "I know what (Johnson head coach Paul) Friel is feeling right now. He's probably ticked off as I was four years ago."
- Jackson County