PINSON, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s not unusual for coaches to talk about unknowns entering their team’s season opener.
This year their list of concerns will include more than rust and new starters. How teams will handle COVID-19 safety procedures may be the bigger unknown.
Tonight is the first Friday of an unprecedented football season — one that requires new strategies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Players and coaches have practiced those strategies.
Tonight they’ll have to implement them for the first time.
“A lot has changed,” Hewitt-Trussville athletics director Lance Walker said. “Almost everything, honestly.”
Walker said during the game, each player will now have his own water bottle. He also said the player box now stretches to the 10-yard line on both ends to allow more spacing. Some players will be required to wear masks when not in the game. There will be no handshakes afterward, either.
Implementing the new procedures is the latest step in what’s already been a unique season.
“It’s been weird man. I wish things would have been the same for my last year,” Pinson Valley wide receiver Ga’Quincy McKinstry said. “I mean it’s something that I have to deal with, something that coach Shade has been talking about from the start, which is change and how to accept change.”
The new rules also affect travel.
Walker said Hewitt-Trussville, who opens tonight at Pinson Valley, will take more buses on road trips to allow more space to spread out. Players will wear their uniforms on the bus so they don’t have to worry about social distancing while getting dressed in a road locker room. Attendance is determined by the home team, so the impact will vary from week to week. However, tonight Hewitt-Trussville’s cheerleaders will make the trip along with a small pep band.
“It’s been a lot of work preparing for the new procedures and communicating about that,” Walker said. “But at this point, everybody’s just excited about the opportunity.”
Pinson Valley and Hewitt-Trussville kick off at 7 p.m.
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