GPB Sports' Jon Nelson and Hannah Goodin featured in a promo for Countdown to Kickoff

GPB Sports' Jon Nelson and Hannah Goodin are featured in a 2021 promo ad for their show "Countdown to Kickoff"

Credit: GPB

Georgia high school football season kicks off next week as COVID-19 cases rebound to highs not seen since the winter.

At least one school, Central High in Talbot County, has canceled its first football game next week. But most are going full steam ahead, preparing for the season.

GPB Sports' Jon Nelson is spending this week crisscrossing the state talking to coaches and players. He joined GPB’s Rickey Bevington from the town of Roberta in Crawford County.

Jon Nelson: Any time, Rick, especially as we're getting close to the kickoff of football season. As we always say here in the state of Georgia, the four seasons are not summer, fall, winter and spring. It is football, spring football, "'cruitin" and National Signing Day. And we are getting to that first football season all over here for 2021. Good to be with you.

Rickey Bevington: You're talking to players and coaches. What is the mood? What are they telling you right now?

Jon Nelson: That they could not be more excited to have as normal a football season here in 2021 that they didn't have in 2020. Everything is on the normal timetables. And right now we're looking forward to that mid-August kickoff. And folks could not be more excited across the board to get back to a footballing normal.

Rickey Bevington: So what are the plans and protocols if a student or staffer tests positive?

Jon Nelson: It is what it was carried over from last year. What you try to do is you try to isolate them. You try to analyze and try to figure out what's best for the organization — and by organization, I mean the particular school you have. The vaccines that are available in local areas. You have coaches taking precautions as best they can. But [the] biggest thing is just trying to take as good care of everyone around themselves and being smart and at the same time making sure that everything is a safe, an environment as possible here in 2021.

Rickey Bevington: The Georgia High School Association is not making broad rules for every school system. I understand they're letting each school district decide what is right for them and their teams.

Jon Nelson: Yeah, the GHSA, what they are doing is they are deferring guidelines locally. What they are aiming for and what they're asking for is that by playoff time you have 100% capacity in your venues and making sure that all of the postseason activities can go as fully as possible. But in the regular season, if you're a fan of a particular school, check with your local school. Check with your local school district and see what the guidelines are for your home games. Everything from being ticketless to purchasing tickets day-of, all of those things that we're used to doing say, in 2019 and before, that we weren't able to do in 2020. Go ahead and ask what the guidelines are when it comes to bags and tailgating and tickets and concessions and being paperless. Go ahead and call your local school districts and find out what those dynamics are. I'm sure that they're posted as well. But if you still have questions, always ask ahead of time, so you're not caught off guard on a Thursday, a Friday or a Saturday night.

Rickey Bevington: GPB Sports, of course, is getting ready for our own variety of productions. Jon, what can our audience expect in terms of football content from you and Hannah and your team this year?

Jon Nelson: GPB Sports once again will go wall to wall introducing the state to the rest of the state all season long. Hannah Goodin and I have already started the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. For the weekly version here for 2021, you can go to, or go to your favorite podcatchers. You can subscribe and listen to all of the great news that we talk about there every week. Starting on the 19th of August, Countdown to Kickoff is going on Facebook Live and that will be a regular production during the week at GPB Sports. Recruiting 2021 will be starting on our platforms outside of over the air. But once we do start our Football Fridays in Georgia Game of the Week on Sept.10, the lead-in will be Recruiting 2021 on GPB and your local affiliate.

So we've got all of that. We have all the columns that are written on a weekly basis by Sam Crenshaw, Matt Stewart, Hannah Gooden, myself, Stan Autry — a lot of folks putting in a lot of effort. Autumn Rose in social media and Sandy Malcolm as well. A lot of stuff going on. So you'll be kept up to date as humanly possible every single day of football season, which is basically 24/7, 365 — or 366, depending on the year that we're in. So we're ready to go. We're gassed up, we're ready to go. It's going to be another great season.

Rickey Bevington: Jon Nelson is always ready to talk about high school football and you are now being recognized for your commitment to this. Tell us about the award ceremony you'll be attending on the first night of the season.

Jon Nelson: September the 10th. That is the Silver Circle induction for NATAS — National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. I was nominated to be a part of the Silver Circle, which means that you have given 25 years or more of service to the television industry in a particular form or fashion. And I was graciously and very humbly voted into the Silver Circle. So that induction will happen Sept. 10th at a very swanky hotel. And so they're going to give me an award. And so I've got to figure out, once the awards ceremony is over, how I'm going to integrate back into the broadcast for GPB. It should be halftime, maybe. So we'll see what I can do for the second half of our season opener for Football Fridays in Georgia after being inducted into the Silver Circle. Thank you, Rickey, for recognizing me for that. But a lot of a lot of great folks have been a part of the process. And I had a lot more hair when I started back in the spring of 1990. Being recognized for Silver Circle has been overwhelming and very humbling.

Rickey Bevington: We look forward to celebrating you on Sept. 10th as well. GPB Sports’ John Nelson kicking off with everything we need to know about the Georgia high school football season. Jon, thank you so much for joining me.

Jon Nelson: Any time, Rickey.