CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - “Obviously, Friday Night Lights is a big thing in Ohio.”
Cleveland Heights Athletic Director Joe D’Amato got ready for the Tigers to start their football season with many differences from years past.
This year, the state has cut the season from 10 to a maximum of six games (all teams will make the playoffs), varsity teams can only dress sixty players, and Governor Mike DeWine put limits on game day stadium capacity.
“The Governor’s orders were fifteen hundred spectators or 15-percent of your capacity (whichever is less),” says D’Amato, who’s distributing two paperless tickets to every participating family. “Football players, cheerleaders, we’re well under the fifteen-percent capacity. That’s something we’re comfortable with at this time.”
The bleachers are marked with tape on staggered rows to show where people can sit and, with the limits on tickets, there’s no student cheering section.
Concession stands will have to comply with state restaurant standards so those that open will likely have simple menus of packaged and sealed items.
And marching bands will not travel, only performing at home, for the schools that still have them.
“This year. we don’t have a marching band, which is kind of unique for us since music is a big thing here,” says D’Amato.
For players, there’s temperature checks, social distancing, masks, and medical screenings as well as extra protection on each player’s helmet in Cleveland Heights and some other districts.
“There are a few companies that are offering top and bottom shields to kinda protect against droplets and things like so we felt that was an extra measure we can take, not a high expense that can help the kids out,” says D’Amato.
Despite all the extra work, it’s worth it for D’Amato.
“For us, it’s a great opportunity for our kids to go out there and compete,” he says, “so to be able to provide that opportunity regardless of the extra hurdles we have to go follow, we’re happy to do that.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association oversees more than 700 public high schools and has reported only 60 will not start the season.
Many high school football teams kick off this weekend but Cleveland Heights will take an extra week to get all their precautions in place.
The Tigers first game is next Friday, September 4th, hosting Maple Heights.