Friday nights to look different for more than just football teams this fall

Friday nights to look different for more than just football teams this fall

LAUREL, Miss. (WDAM) - The game of football may seem trivial during a time in which districts across Mississippi are simply trying to figure out how to best return their students to school.

It certainly doesn’t feel trivial to some.

“It means everything to us,” said Seminary senior offensive guard Seth Gilmore.

“Football’s everything – getting to play out on this field on Friday nights,” said Northeast Jones senior offensive lineman Sam White.

“There’s a lot going on right now,” said West Marion senior running back Jartavious Martin. “I just hope to play.”

There are many coaches around the Pine Belt who will argue academics and athletics go hand in hand.

“I think sports is one of the big things that keep our kids out of trouble,” said Collins head coach Eric Collins. “Keep ‘em in school, keep ‘em motivated.”

“There’s some of our kids that don’t have a real stable atmosphere, they don’t have that stability,” said West Marion head coach Brad Duncan. “School provides that to a certain extent. I think football provides more of that kind of stability.”

While teachers adapt to distance-learning, coaches are mapping out what a football season amidst the coronavirus might look like.

Pages of guidelines were sent out by the Mississippi High School Activities Association last week for the 2020 season. They included everything from staying six feet apart on the sidelines to disallowing the “high five.”

“How are we going to social distance?” said Purvis head coach Brad Hankins. “How are we going to do that on the sidelines and then go out there and get close to one another? How you gonna get close to one another at practice? Cause you have to block and tackle and do those things to prepare for a Friday night .Those are just going to be some hurdles that we have to find the best way possible to get through.”

Fans cannot enter a game without a mask – that is if fans are allowed to attend. The questions surrounding what Friday nights look like stretch beyond the hash marks.

Gone are the traditional halftime pow-wows among cheerleaders. Marching bands have already seen their state championships canceled.

Their football halftime shows could be relegated to just the drumline.

“It may be us having a pep band in the stands and then telling the rest of the band at a certain time, meet at the band hall and then we’ll march down to the field together,” said Columbia’s Band Director Leslie Fortenberry. “They understand the circumstances that we’re under and I’m just glad we’re able to give them something.”

“We really hope we can still be able to be out there, even if we are six feet apart from each other,” said Purvis senior cheerleader Madison Lawler. “We just want to be able to cheer on the football team.”

Many hope there’s something to cheer for.

Every coach has a game-plan this season, knowing they’ll probably need to call an audible – or two.

“Yes it could change, probably will in some ways, but right now we got a chance,” said Northeast Jones head coach Keith Braddock. “And that’s all you can ask for. We got hope right now and that hope’s what’s driving us.”

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