Friday was the first football game for many high schools across north Alabama. For Elkmonth High School in Limestone County, the game against Randolph School came as the school is currently closed to students due to the coronavirus cases affecting some students and faculty.
Principal Elizabeth Cantrell said as of Friday, there were 14 positive cases at the school: nine students and five staff members.
In addition to those positive staff members, another three are currently in quarantine. Cantrell said that number of teachers out of school caused them to shift to remote learning until Monday, August 31.
"In the big scheme of things, when we look at our numbers, we do have some positive cases, but we've been able to take control of that and move forward in a positive manner in making sure the kids are prepared on Google Classroom and be able to continue their instruction," Cantrell said.
As of Friday, 58 students were in quarantine, according to Cantrell. When the school plans to reopen on Aug. 31, she said 35 of those students will be able to return along with seven out of the eight staff members.
Because of the coronavirus cases that they are dealing with, Cantrell said they put in additional safety measures at Friday's football game, like temperature checks; a separate entrance for each team and each team's fans; and several signs reminding guests to social distance.
"We are encouraging the masks, of course. You will not be permitted into the game without a mask. Our announcers, we've asked them to announce over our speakers, to remind them of sanitation stations, remind them of social distancing and we've even encouraged our families to sit with each other," Cantrell said.
However, even with the precautions in place, not everyone at Friday's game thought having football at the school while it is shut down was a good idea.
Eighth-grader Jacob Tucker came to the game with his family to support his brother, Austin. He said many of his friends refused to come to the game and said the match against the Raiders should've been postponed.
"I love to have football back, but I don't think we should be playing. The school is shut down for two weeks and it's just smarter not to play," Tucker said.
Head Coach Duane Wales said he has been talking with his team throughout the practice period about the seriousness of the virus and encouraged responsible behavior.
He said two of the varsity players tested positive for the virus, along with a couple of middle school players. A handful of varsity players were in quarantine as well and were unable to play in Friday's game.
Wales applauded the school for the work it has done in being proactive to catch the cases that they found.
"I feel confident that the measures we have in place are working because we have detected those that need to go get checked," Wales said.
Cantrell said going to the games is optional for both students and the community, but said having them is important because it gives juniors and seniors an opportunity for a taste of what a normal year would look like.
"Our students have already lost a lot. They've lost lots of activities and they've lost lots of memories and it's very difficult to take away everything that they have when it comes to opportunities to have those senior memories," Cantrell said.
"I hope nobody gets it, but I hope everyone has a good season and just, everyone's safe," Tucker said.
Cantrell said even after the school reopens, the safety measures put in place during Friday night's game will continue for the rest of the season. The school's next game will be at cross-county rival Ardmore on Friday, August 28.