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A kickoff like no other… Elizabethton AD Holt prepared for TSSAA regulations for 2020 opener

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
Depending on the time one may read this article, there will be seven days or less remaining before one of the most unusual and some might even say historical prep football seasons to ever be played as the Elizabethton Cyclones and the Science Hill Hilltoppers prepare to play the first game of the 2020 football season.
Aside from the contest in which the Cyclones will be gunning for a third straight win against the neighboring ‘Toppers, the historical aspect comes from the fact the local area and the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic which has drastically changed the landscape of what many know prep football to be.
The most noticeable changes will be stadiums with only a fraction of what would normally attend a game to allow for the proper social distancing of six feet between a families and all fans will be required to wear face coverings for the entire game.
Also, fans will be having temperature checks and must meet the criteria listed on a checklist posted at the gate before being able to enter.
While the new season brings excitement to the community and the school, athletic directors will definitely earn their keep in making sure that the regulations are adhered to and such will be the case for Elizabethton High School AD Forrest Holt who has already been hard at work preparing for the game that still could face changes from day to day.
Holt took the time to explain how the ticket process has been worked out.
“There will be no ticket sales at the gate because of having to predetermine the seats that have to be sat in so that fans are socially distanced and that people know which seats they will be sitting in,” he said.
“If every parent and family of the participants (football players, cheerleaders, band, and chorus) get their tickets then that has all those seats taken.
“We are trying to wrap up the sale of tickets by Tuesday because that will give us a few days that if we do have some extra tickets whatever those may be then we can decide then on how we may be able to distribute some of those tickets to some others like maybe employees who work here or possibly season ticket holders,” Holt continued.
“Somehow we want to see how we can accommodate some more people because we want to but at the same time take care of the parents first because they only get four years to watch their children and of course some people have held season tickets for 20 to 30 years.
“We wanted these parents to have an opportunity to get in and watch. We will figure everything out because we have a couple of ideas on how we can accommodate more people after Tuesday hopefully.”
The TSSAA regulations recommend attendance of no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of stadium capacity. Holt was asked about how many fans that would correlate to at Citizens Bank Stadium.
“The stands would hold about 1,200 but we are going to utilize the berm for some students because we are going to try to accommodate a student section up in that grass area,” according to Holt. “Those students will be encouraged to bring a lawn chair and space out. We want to have students to be able to participate and still be a part of the game.
“That’s what we have done and are close to that number. The seats are going to be spaced out so its really going to be hard to accommodate anybody else and still follow the guidelines.”
Another factor that Holt and all athletic directors will be tasked to do this season is to take care of visiting fans. The Cyclone AD has been working in the stadium to allow at least some of the visiting team’s parents to be able to watch their student-athletes.
“What we have done is allot them (Science Hill) 128 tickets and what stands those are is basically the end zone bandstand that our band normally uses because we have moved them to section EE so they can spread out and maintain guidelines,” said Holt.
“So, I socially distanced seats in the bandstand and then the visiting bandstand was spread out in groups of two and a small section on the right side of the berm for about 28 lawn chairs to take care of their parents only.
“Whatever Coach Turner does with that, he will have to determine what is best for them.”
When finally asked about how the regulations can be enforced during game time, Holt said it really falls on the shoulders of those who can attend to determine if there will be a season or if the season will be forced to shutter due to not following the guidelines.
“What I am depending on is that we are given guidelines where hopefully we have a safer environment and it’s our job to post those guidelines and enforce those guidelines when they come in and to announce over the PA to remind people of those guidelines but at the same time we all know that one or two people can go around and police if people are wearing their masks or not,” he said.
“That’s going to be up to the people who are participating and attending the game to follow those rules because if we have any chance of getting more games in or making it down the road, we are going to need everybody’s participation to try and follow the rules to make it as safe an environment as they can.
“We are depending on people to do the right thing whether they believe its the right thing or not – it’s the best thing for our athletics program to move forward and have any chance of a season so that is what I would ask people to consider.”
For those who aren’t able to personally attend, there is an opportunity to support the EHS program while also being able to get a fantastic deal on a membership that will not only allow viewing during football but for all sports during the fall season.
“Anyone that is not able to purchase a season ticket this year because they don’t have a participant on the field this year, they can also watch all the fall sports including football, girls soccer, volleyball, and JV football on live stream on the NFHS network with an annual membership for $69.99,” Holt stated.
“The link is on our athletic website if you go to ecschools.net and go to athletics where you will click on the tickets tab, it will take you straight to the subscription link.
“You can subscribe and get access to all our fall sports and part of that revenue comes back to athletics so the more we sell the more money we will get back for our athletics department,” Holt continued.
Holt went on to add that four lucky fans will be rewarded with a free subscription saying, “We also have just received four comp subscriptions that we are going to be able to give away to four lucky fans that can get that membership for free.”
He said that a link would be posted on the school website as well on Facebook where fans can enter for the giveaway.