This season the Kirksville High School football team had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions while allowing students to play.
Kirksville High School is in Div. IV of the North Central Missouri Conference. The season started Aug. 28 and ended Nov. 6, 2020. With about 55 students on the team, they won six games and lost five. The team is currently ranked No. 28 out of 57 teams in the division, and No. 154 out of 326 teams in Missouri.
Before each practice, players answered questions about any possible recent exposure to the virus and had their temperature taken. Students were then required to wear face masks unless running a drill, and were required to stay six feet apart from each other. Varsity and junior varsity teams were split into position groups. Each group had its own equipment that had to be wiped down with disinfectant after every use by students or coaches. Students were asked to bring their personal equipment home to clean as well.
Players were also required to wear masks and social distance during games unless they were playing on the field. While the team traveled, each student had an assigned seat on the bus, had to wear a mask and had to have the windows down. All teams were told to not shake hands before or after any game to reduce the spread of the virus. These rules were developed by the superintendents, athletic directors and each school’s health department.
Kirksville High School also implemented an attendance rule to restrict how many fans could be in attendance. This rule had three phases 一 orange, yellow and green. For each phase, players received a certain amount of tickets they could give to family or friends to see the game. Orange meant each player only got two tickets, yellow gave each player four tickets and green allowed anyone to be in attendance with no tickets required. At each phase, all fans had to wear a mask and social distance from each other. For the entirety of the season, the team stayed on orange.
John McConnell, a fan of the football team since 1968 when he started covering the team for KTVO, said students and their parents were good about sharing unused tickets so as many people could come as possible. The concession stand was open, but offered a limited menu.
First Year Coach Kevin Krietemeyer said there was no team bonding this season outside of practice because everyone was afraid that one player might get sick, which would force the team into quarantine.
The Kirksville High School football team did not have any students test positive for the virus during the 2020 season. Krietemeyer said it seems like the students enjoyed the season, despite the necessary precautions
“Did they hate being scared they may get the whole team sick if they did something wrong or even something they could not control? Yes,” Krietemeyer said. “Were they tired of constantly worrying about their classmates being around them and losing their season ‘cause of someone else’s behavior outside of the classroom? Yes.”
Schools in the NCMC Conference decided once a team had a player test positive, the entire team was not allowed to play for two weeks, even if the infected student tested negative sooner than that. Teams with an active case were not allowed to play even if other students tested negative with the infected student in quarantine.
Although the team lost this season, Krietemeyer said that it was a good season for them. McConnell added that the students understood what they had to do to keep playing this season, along with parents and fans who wanted to support the team.