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Message received… County athletes, supporters pull together to make voice heard regarding fall sports

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com    
The Rangers were there and so were the Bulldogs. One couldn’t miss the Warriors or the Highlanders either.
There was no sporting event taking place but only a group of athletes and their supporters who would make their history and social studies teachers proud of engaging in the democratic process of a peaceful protest.
They gathered in front of where the Carter County School Board was preparing to meet to discuss the reopening of schools as well as discussing allowing fall sports to resume in the county after putting lock and chain on fields for two weeks due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in the county.
Their message was a simple one – We Want to Play!
Not knowing how the board would be swayed they wanted to make sure that each member that attended the meeting knew exactly where the athletes and their supporters stood on opening schools and their season once again.
Several athletes and a parent spoke on their thoughts leading up to the school board meeting.
Eli Ayers – senior football player at Happy Valley High School
Man, we just want to play and go back to school. We are seniors and we would just really like to have our senior year. It’s really great to see how everyone has just come together at this time for us and for our school year and sports of course. We are just really hoping to get the vote today. I think this will help make a difference.
Alex Lunceford – senior football player at Happy Valley High School
I hope this gives us seniors our last chance to get out there and play. It’s putting a toll on us right now. A lot of people need to get back in shape and get ready to play. This is hurting me right now but if we can get back out there and play it will mean a lot to me.
R.D. Ward – senior football player Hampton High School
We are here so hopefully, they will know just how much it means to us for us to play football this year. And just to go back to school and for all the other sports as well. We all work really hard so we can play football. Football is some of our lives and it would really mean a lot to us. It’s heartbreaking. I have played football ever since I was five or six years old and it’s been a part of my life for a long time. It really breaks my heart that we can’t get out there and practice and play my senior year.
Conor Jones – junior football player Hampton High School
I definitely think that we have the community behind us because football and every other sport is important. It’s good for everybody to come and watch and they enjoy it. It’s good for the players as well – it’s mental health. For some players, this is an escape route from their homes and for some other players this is something for them to do and they really enjoy it and I think that we really have the community’s backing on this. Just getting back in shape is going to be the biggest thing I think just to be able to get our form down before we have to go play. It’s not like restarting, it’s just like mechanics that you have to go all over again but I think we will be alright once we get back to it. I am happy for them (Elizabethton getting to play) but at the same time, I feel like we should have a fair opportunity like they had. That’s the game too that we aren’t going to get back. For some of these players, it’s their senior year and for other players, this is a game that they won’t be able to get back and that’s two games. It hurts but we are going to do everything we can to get back at it.
(L-R) William Cyrus, Daniel Shearl, and Austin Fair – football players at Unaka High School
Daniel Shearl – Right now we are a little ticked off because we want to play because we are positive that we can have a pretty good season this year because we are looking good size-wise and mental-wise to. All the stuff right here is killing our team. We haven’t gotten enough strength right now – we are losing strength, muscle, and we are getting lazy right now and I think they should let us play. It’s our choice- we are risking it and we want to play. If the vote comes back negative, it’s going to tick off a lot of parents and players off and there will be more protests and everything from players and parents.
Austin Fair – We all want to play. I am really surprised at all the people out here supporting this.
Beth Gouge – parent of a senior football player at Unaka
It’s definitely been a very tough year and it just seems to keep getting that way with challenges. The kids need to be back in school and they need to be social with friends at a social distancing. I go to work every day and he doesn’t get to go to school. So it not only affects the parents but it affects the kids as well. It’s a dramatic impact on them. You start seeing a lot of kids getting down. This is their senior year and their time to go out there to shine and play their sport and they don’t get to do that right now. We see Elizabethton getting to play, we see Johnson City get to play – they need that. You are going to see a lot of depression coming in for kids and we need to get them back in school and to play the games that they play. Sports bring us together as a community and schools bring us together as a community – we support each other. It’s just not the kids and the parents – it’s everyone out there.