NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The 2020 high school football season comes down to more than COVID-19; it comes down to teenagers handling a responsibility that some professional athletes have failed to do.

While in “bubble” environments, the MLS, NHL, and NBA have all succeeded in keeping the virus out and players on the field. But there is no bubble in high school sports and the state of Tennessee is asking teenagers to stay away from social settings, wear masks, and keep their distance.

In the MLB both the Cardinals and Marlins have failed to do just that and suffered from major outbreaks and lost games. Now the expectation is for teenagers to do better.

“These are kids and they haven’t seen their friends probably since March.” said TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress, “It is a very big ask to say you’re back in school and back on the practice field seeing your friends for the first time in several months but you can’t go over to houses or have a group playing video games.”

Pearl Cohn head coach Tony Brunetti is remaining positive, but realistic, “It’s hard, all you can do is keep on encouraging, keep enforcing don’t hang out all the time, stay your norm and do the best thing social distance-wise.”

Here is the really hard part, it only takes one player on teams of 50, 60, and 70 kids to take the whole team down for weeks.

Childress says the TSSAA is simply following CDC guidelines, “If someone tests positive they are to be quarantined for 10 days, If you are found with contact tracing to have been around someone for 10 minutes or longer, then those individuals have to be quarantined for 14 days.”

So, the stakes are very high each and every day and Brunetti says his kids know it, “they understand what it’s going to take if you’re going to play a season, you’re going to have to do the right thing. “

The two-week quarantine has already hit Cheatham County, McCallie in Chattanooga, and in Greeneville. They are simply the first and with nearly an average of 2,000 cases a day in Tennessee they certainly will not be the last.          

“It’s going to happen,” Brunetti said. “One way or another it’s just going to happen. You’ve got to get back to the norms some kind of way but you have to have protocols.”

When it happens teams will miss games but they will not be punished with losses. Instead, the TSSAA decided to simply mark those games as “no contest” while the opponent gets a victory.

That was a big decision for Davidson County schools that have all pushed back the start of play by one month. They are largely grouped in the same regions so the lack of games will not make much of a difference in the final standings when playoff spots are awarded.

So now we wait, watch the numbers from the state every day and cross our fingers we make it to kick off on Friday, August 21.

It’s a season of change for football. From the NFL to high school, News 2 digs deeper into the impact COVID-19 is having on the game.
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