More than 14 months after Lee County’s football season came to a close in the state championship game in Raleigh, with thousands of Yellow Jacket and Weddington fans in N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium, a new high school football season finally is near.
But for players and fans, this season will look different.
Many fans missed Friday night lights in its traditional fall place. Most fans will have to settle for watching or listening to high school football as a seven-game regular season is set for February, March and April.
For the time being, orders from Gov. Roy Cooper and state health officials regarding COVID-19 limit spectators at outdoor sporting events at 100 people in addition to players, coaches, officials, band members, cheerleaders and support staff.
With health and safety of course at the top of the list, the next priority said Lee County co-athletic director Reggie Peace is making it possible for parents and family of the players to see the games in person.
“We’re doing everything we can to take care of the parents of our student-athletes first,” said Peace.
During the volleyball season from November-January and the basketball season, in its home stretch now, the spectator limit has been 25.
Getting practices, then games, and whole seasons possible and played has been a full-team effort said Peace.
“Our parents have been great, and very supportive, from picking up their kids on time, to doing everything at home (to follow health protocols),” said Peace.
Simply the numbers of a football roster mean family getting the first opportunity for tickets will probably take up all or most of 100. If there are tickets available coming up on a Friday night, Peace said the school will share the online link for the general public and visiting fans.
Lee County and Southern Lee have only three home football dates each. The county rivalry and regular-season finale typically draws an attendance of about 4,000-5,000.
Peace is optimistic the state restrictions might be changed in time for part of the football season.
“Right now, it is what it is,” he said. “Hopefully, if the numbers keep trending in the right direction, it may change. We all certainly hope so.”
There’s also a financial aspect for all high school athletic programs; with football as a major piece, and every school needing to adjust.
Some state senators are taking up the issue days before there will be hundreds of games played across the state. Three Republican senators introduced a bill to change the 100-person limit to 40% of a facility’s capacity.
As the season begins, Lee County will travel to South Granville next Friday evening. Southern Lee will go to Franklinton to open the season next Friday.
Lee County’s first home game is slated for March 12 with the Jackets welcoming conference foe Triton.
Southern Lee’s home opener versus Carrboro is scheduled for March 5.
The Brick City Bowl, Lee County at Southern Lee, is scheduled for April 9.