Local high school football teams brace for changes from COVID-19

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Despite COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, high school contact sports are still pushing forward for the 2020 season.

But that doesn’t mean teams aren’t feeling the effect of the pandemic. Between players dropping out and new safety guidelines, it’s an unprecedented situation for high school coaches to handle.

Memphis Central High School is one of the largest programs in the area, and they’re feeling the COVID hurt. It leaves some wondering whether or not the season will be played at all.

Despite Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order to allow Tennessee high schools to play contact sports, thousands of families across the state are opting out.

“Like I’ve told ours from the front end; I totally understand and don’t know if I blame you,” Central football coach Major Wright said.

But it doesn’t make running a team any less difficult.

Memphis Central is one of the largest, most accomplished programs in the Mid-South, but operating through Shelby County Schools, they don’t have the resources that other districts or private schools are allowed.

With SCS only learning virtually this fall, it’s even harder to organize the students that are brave enough to play.

“If you’re not in school, it makes having practices on campus a challenge, but it’s one, if you ask any Shelby County School coach, that we’re ready to take on if it means we get to play,” Wright said.

It’s still in question whether football or other sports will be played at all.

The Central Warriors still have enough able bodies for now, but every team is bracing for potential outbreaks once practices are in full swing.

The governor’s office said it sent out guidelines to every school in the state while working with medical experts, but Gov. Lee’s description of those expectations remains vague.

“Those districts have that information,” Gov. Lee said. “We believe we’ve set aside and put forth guidance that will allow for safe reopening.”

For now, players and coaches are trying to adapt every week and feeling increasingly concerned.

“I’d like for it to be that way,” Wright said. “For every family to have that choice to make. It seems like we’re getting closer and closer to not having that choice.”

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