Magnolia boys soccer coach George Kelley was supposed to be at school on Tuesday. He was supposed to be ripe with anticipation as his team prepared to play its final home game of the season.
Playoff implications, and even a shot at the District 19-5A title, should have been hanging in the balance. The match against Waller could have marked his crowning achievement since taking over the program a little more than three years ago. Magnolia was poised to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2013.
But instead of heading to the pitch, Kelley was headed to the lake.
“I’m going to go see if I can catch some catfish and grill it tonight,” Kelley said with a chuckle.
How things have changed.
The sports world, including the high school soccer scene in Montgomery County, has been put on hold due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. Magnolia ISD, along with several other school districts, announced Monday that it will not be resuming classes or extracurricular activities until April 13 at the earliest, and that delay could end up being longer.
The global pandemic has halted the Bulldogs’ season. It might have shut it down altogether. The same holds true for countless other athletic programs across the region, state and country. Only time will tell as school districts and other governing entities continue to monitor the situation.
The UIL recently released a new calendar for the soccer playoffs, delaying the bi-district round from March 26-28 to April 14. Those dates, however, could be headed toward another revision.
Until they have a more concrete answer on when their season could resume, the Magnolia players are being advised to remain focused on the goals they set for themselves.
When the suspension of high school athletics reached Montgomery County, the Bulldogs were second in the District 19-5A standings. Magnolia was just two points behind Katy Paetow with two games remaining in the regular season. The team was set to host Waller and travel to College Station to finish up its 14-game league slate.
“I understand that it’s not an ideal situation, but it’s one of those things that we kind of just have to roll with,” Kelley said. “We’re just kind of stuck in a limbo almost. I’ve really just been telling them to stay prepared. Mentally, you have to understand — whether (the rest of the season) does happen or doesn’t happen — you’re going to have to stay ready as if we have games still coming up, as if we’re going to be playing for playoffs, all of that. We have to still have the same mentality.”
Kelley has been working hard to create a winning culture at Magnolia over the past few seasons. It appeared the payoff was coming this year as a roster with 11 seniors led the charge.
Several other local teams were also on the verge of competing in the playoffs. Porter, Montgomery, The Woodlands, Magnolia and Splendora all currently have top-four standings in their districts on the girls side. The same was true for the Magnolia West, The Woodlands, Conroe, College Park, Caney Creek, Porter and Splendora on the boys side.
“It feels like everything is kind of lining up for us to finally make the playoffs, and then this happens,” Kelley said. “It’s hard to not be frustrated — that’s for sure. But there’s also nothing I can really do about it, so you have to accept it and keep going. It’s not my season, it’s the boys season, so it’s just trying to encourage them to keep their heads up.”