By Marty Gordon
The current situation concerning COVID-19 is affecting high school football in different ways. This past week, teams took the field with little or no fans in the stands. Band members were spread for almost 40 yards on home bleachers because of social distancing, and staff conducted temperature checks as players, coaches and parents entered stadiums.
At Christiansburg High School where Eastern Montgomery faced off with Auburn, some players were seen carrying white buckets as they entered the stadium. Each Eastern Montgomery player had a bucket with his number on it with his own water bottle, towel, gloves and backup masks to wear on the sidelines when he wasn’t in the game.
Athletic Director Kirk Lytton saw the bucket idea during a television broadcast of a recent E.C. Glass contest. “Just another way to deal with COVID,” he said.
Just up the road, administrators at Rural Retreat and George Wythe made the decision to postpone Saturday’s football game between the two county rivals because of COVID-19 contact tracing within the RR program.
Another issue arose at Pulaski where staff balked at the idea of limiting the maximum number of fans at 250. The school system felt band members and cheerleaders should be included as “essential” personnel. Under Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive order, cheer and band are not listed as essential, and thus they count against the 250 max.
Instead, Pulaski officials took an unexpected legal turn in the matter. In a statement, School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers said, “Pulaski County Public Schools has consulted with legal counsel, our insurance carrier, and the Virginia High School League in order to develop a plan that conforms to Governor Northam’s Executive Order #72 while at the same time doesn’t diminish the role of our band members and cheerleaders by defining them as spectators at events designed to showcase their talents.
“It has been determined that the best resolution would be to have a simultaneous cheerleading performance, football game, and band concert scheduled for 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021 at Kenneth J. Dobson Stadium with a maximum attendance capped at 250 for each event.
“All player/participants on the cheer squad, football team, and marching band will be issued the same number of tickets for family members to attend their respective event.,” Dr. Siers said. “The stadium will be sectioned off using a color-coding system to ensure that the families of player/participants are seated in an area that will give them the best possible view to watch their student perform. All mitigation strategies required in EO72 will be followed to include proper physical distancing and the wearing of masks.
“Pulaski County Public Schools has taken the additional step of covering the costs for these events by providing tickets free of charge to the families of our player/participants in order to reduce the interaction between spectators and school personnel that would be required to sell tickets,” the school superintendent said. “The event will be closed to the general public but still available for livestream viewing. We’ve been advised that this plan is legal under the guidelines of executive order #72, qualifies for insurance coverage, and is not in violation of any VHSL rules or guidelines. We are confident that these events can occur safely and simultaneously and look forward to providing this opportunity to our students and their families.”
Game previews for this week:
Pulaski (2-0) at Christiansburg (0-1)
Last week: Salem beat Christiansburg 36-13 as the Blue Demons were able to tally only 235 yards of total offense, 61 through the air.
Pulaski rolled to a 48-7 win over Hidden Valley as Drew Dalton passed for two scores and ran for another. Kytone Kennedy also added 80 yards and two scores on 19 carries.
Radio broadcast: 100.7 FM, 107.3 FM.
Blacksburg (0-2) at Cave Spring (0-1)
Last week: Patrick Henry downed Blacksburg 56-0.
Cave Spring was open last week but fell two weeks ago 42-0 to Pulaski County.
Radio broadcast: 93.1 FM.
Ft. Chiswell (0-1) at Auburn (1-0)
Last week: Auburn downed Eastern Montgomery 36-12. Auburn’s Payson Kelley passed for two touchdowns and ran for another. Trevor Young also rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown.
The Fort had an open week but lost 12-6 to Rural Retreat in the opener two weeks ago.
No radio broadcast.
Eastern Montgomery (1-1) at Bath County (0-1)
Last week: Auburn downed Eastern Montgomery 36-12. EM’s Adam Bahnken scored a touchdown on the ground and threw for another.
Bath fell 52-0 two weeks ago to Narrows.
No radio broadcast.
Radford (0-0) at James River (1-0)
Last week: Radford was idle, and this week will be its first game of the 2021 spring season.
James River shut out Alleghany 26-0 as freshman quarterback Zeal Hammon ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third. He finished with 79 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Radio broadcast: 101.7 FM.