High school football kicks off with safety measures in place

Sports

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — High school football kicks off for some schools Friday night, but there’s a very different feel in the air as high school football season gets underway.

Collierville will face Briarcrest, and there will be some changes at the sold-out game to adhere to guidance from the state and health department.

A spokesperson says there will be no more than 650 people inside, and that includes the players, cheerleaders, band and fans. Normal seating capacity is 5,000.

“Our guys know it and I think, in our minds we’re expecting it, of course, lesser crowd,” said Joe Rocconi, Collierville’s head coach.

Each school has their own approach. Some, like Shelby County Schools, have delayed the start of the sesason. Others are playing and even allowing fans in the stands. Then there are schools that will play but to completely empty stands.

“It’s gonna look different now. You know, usually we’ve got three to four thousand fans in the stands,” said Houston High School head coach James Thomas. “Now we might have three or four hundred. Mom and dad are gonna come watch, maybe brother and sister, but not many else.”

Health leaders said these are unprecedented times.

“A lot of this no one knows. So the fact that we’ve got some people letting fans in and some people not, we’ll be able to study that in two to four weeks and see what the difference was if there was one,” said Dr. Jeff Warren with the Memphis Shelby County COVID-19 Task Force.

What they don’t want is for fans to not wear their masks or practice social distancing. Dr. Warren issued a clear warning for those thinking about doing that.

“If they do that, football will be cancelled,” he said.

To avoid that, Collierville High School will required 12 feet of social distancing, masks and temperature checks at their game.

“Please meet us in the middle,” said Mario Hogue with Collierville Schools. “Please be mindful. Please be respectful. We need to social distance and we need to be respectful of everyone’s space.”

“If we do that hopefully in two weeks we’re not going to see a spike from our high school athletic games and we’ll be able to have them continue,” said Warren.

Collierville schools announced that media won’t be allowed at the game Friday as they work out safety protocols. Instead the game will be made available via livestream on the school’s Facebook page.

“We are scaling back all of our game night operations, decreasing seating capacity, and offering ticket availability to specific community members (athletic team driven),” Hogue said in a statement.

WREG has joined with The Commercial Appeal and The Daily Memphian to protest the media ban.

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