By Hallie Graham, Opinions Editor
Friday night lights shine brightly across America starting in early September. States, cities, colleges, high schools, and even middle schools gather teams to compete at America’s autumn pastime: football.
Harpeth Hall gets in the spirit of the weekend festivities by cheering for our friends on Harding Pike: Montgomery Bell Academy. But, we do not wear green on Friday nights. We wear red — Big Red.
This year, however, COVID-19 has sent shockwaves across the globe and left open wounds through educational and social systems.
Whether you failed a test, woke up late, got rear-ended in the gravel lot or got demerits for your socks, walking straight through the gates of the new Tommy Owen Stadium is a certainty students have all grown fondly accustomed to.
MBA’s 2020 football season plans are a drastic change to the irrational hope students held in mid-summer: football season would still be on as the Chick-fil-a, mosh-pit, red-smudged party we all know well.
To bring back a sense of spirit and excitement, MBA is opening their football season, but with a few catches. These restrictions make up a safe and reasonable system. According to an email sent out by MBA’s administration, each player or coach was allotted two tickets to the season-opener, limiting fans allowing for socially distanced stands.
Within the confines of the virus, Harpeth Hall girls and all non-senior MBA boys were welcomed to the 122nd Big Red season through Livestream and Hippie Radio.
MBA’s varsity football team has been restricted during not only games but also practices to ensure safety of the players.
“We started workouts in early June, split into small groups in order to maintain distance,” senior varsity safety Bo Wilbanks said.
Other schools less safe than MBA do not have these restrictions in place, and in turn, are suffering the consequences like postponing games and positive cases. According to WKRN, Cheatham County Central high school’s football team postponed games and practices because of confirmed COVID cases, putting all participants in danger.
While there is risk to participating, MBA’s restrictions make players feel safer. Ethan Lilly, MBA senior center, is ready to play. “We know that we have something to prove and that we don’t have much time to do it,” Lilly said.
After one home game, Montgomery Bell saw their rules working.
“I thought you did a great job supporting our team while also complying with the distancing guidelines. You represented our school well.” MBA Dean of Students Robert Sawyer wrote in an email to the student body. Seniors and juniors will be able to reserve seats at the next game, the same email reports.
Members of the community are in good spirits and happy to have in-person events after quarantine despite the regulations. “After months of uncertainty and fears that COVID-19 would lead to the cancellation of the season, MBA Football is finally ready to hit the gridiron again,” MBA senior Joseph Bellardo said.
“We made the most of it and enjoyed cheering even though there was not a normal student section. We’re just thankful to be back cheering for MBA!” senior and varsity cheerleader Virginia Wall said.
“This year is different from any other in my four seasons of varsity football,” Wilbanks said. “We worked all summer prepping for the season. While it was not what we thought it would be, we’re thankful to play and are willing to do anything to keep playing.”
“I am really happy that the boys, particularly the seniors, are getting to play. Many of these kids have been waiting for years to play MBA football and so it’s great that they are getting to be together as a team,” MBA’s Athletic Director Mark Tipps said.
Everyone, even those who cannot attend, anticipate football season. Underclassmen praise MBA rather than being spiteful about its negative implications on their attendance.
“I feel that the first priority should be for seniors to be able to attend,” MBA sophomore Reed Sullivan said. “We have a larger seating area this year which will help with distancing. I am optimistic about the season whether I get to go or not because we have some great guys on the field.”
Underclassmen and Harpeth Hall students are excited for the wins to come and hopeful for the return of the student section. Whether this return is November or next season, cheering on the Big Red is well worth the wait.
MBA’s opening is something that brings its broad community joy. In a world that has been dark and lackluster for seven months now, safe and somewhat normal events need to start again. From this honeybear on Estes, roll Red roll.