WACO, Texas — Several Central Texas 1A-4A schools opened the Texas high school football season Thursday night by competing in scrimmages. The match-ups also served as a test run for schools' new health and safety plans.
Connally High played host to Lorena High, their former district rivals, at the Cadets' Mac Peoples Stadium.
The school allocated 400 tickets to Connally fans and around 750 Lorena fans.
According to Connally Athletic Director Shane Anderson, the home side bleachers hold around 2,000 fans, while the visiting bleachers hold around 1,500. During the season, Connally plans to admit up to 50% capacity.
"We measured our stadium and the home side will hold 1,000 and the visitor side will hold 700, so that's how we're gonna operate," Anderson said.
According to UIL rules, no fans are allowed to watch football games from the sidelines. Instead, Connally is encouraging fans to spread out and social distance in the stands. All fans are required to wear a mask.
"The hope is as parents and fans and as community members, people come in here and respect that and respect those kids," Anderson said. "If they do what they are supposed to do as fans, then we can keep this thing going."
Connally boosters and faculty members took temperatures of fans and performed a symptom check before allowing them inside the gate. Those with a fever were not allowed inside.
On the field, players and coaches said there has been little change from previous years.
"It's like any other year," Anderson said. "It's these seniors' senior year, and they're excited and ready to try to keep this thing going."
Players were required to wear masks during halftime, but not during the game. UIL guidelines state anyone who is actively exercising is not required to wear a face covering.
Despite the few changes, coaches say their kids are excited to compete against other schools.
"To get out here and hear the pads pop and listen to the whistles blow, and all the things the fall is about... it's exciting for our kids," Anderson said.
According to Anderson, the Cadets are using the uncertainty surrounding the season as a motivator.
"The only thing we're guaranteed is today," Anderson said. "We're not guaranteed tomorrow. Anything can happen with this pandemic. They can come up tomorrow and shut this thing down. So, you better make the most of today and better give everything you got."
Connally is scheduled to start the season August 28 against Sunnyvale at Mac Peoples Stadium.