Georgia high school football player found dead day before state championship game

A 17-year-old high school football player in Georgia was found dead just one day before he was set to play in his team's state championship game, school officials announced, and foul play is suspected in the death.

Brandon Smith, a player for Manchester High School, was found dead Sunday, the school district announced.

"We are heartbroken to hear the news of the tragic and untimely death of one of our student-athletes, Brandon Smith," the Meriwether County School System said in a statement. "Manchester High School’s celebration of playing for the Georgia 1-A State Football Championship has unfortunately turned into something none of us could have fathomed."

Smith's death came one day after he was reportedly missing, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. WXIA Atlanta reported authorities were working at a crime scene on Sunday in Manchester.

Manchester Police Chief Gray Couch told USA TODAY Sports police received a 911 call reporting "what they believed to be a deceased person" behind a residence in the city. Officers arrived on the scene and found a Black male "with no signs of life, behind a residence in a thick wooded area."

"Because foul play is suspected, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was called and is taking the lead in the investigation," Couch said.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation confirmed to USA TODAY Sports its involvement in the case.

"The circumstances behind this tragedy are still being investigated and will be shared publicly by local authorities," the school district said.

The Manchester Blue Devils were set to take on Bowdon High School in the state football championship game on Monday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Manchester is about 65 miles south of the stadium.

The game is still scheduled to take place at 7 p.m.

"We continue to pray for Brandon’s family, friends, teammates, and classmates," the school district said. "Brandon was a loyal teammate and friend who excelled on and off the field. He will be deeply missed."

Manchester High School will have mental health support for students and family on Monday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia high school football player found dead day before title game