Mid-South high school football teams suit up despite warnings from health officials

Local high school football teams suit up despite warnings from health officials

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We are one week away from the start of high school football in the state of Tennessee.

Local teams are suiting up even as health experts are speaking up and announcing that it is not safe to play because of COVID-19.

At Houston High School, Head football Coach James Thomas teaches players the X’s and O’s and COVID-19 safety.

“They’ve done a really good job of adapting to the different protocols that we go through. I think I’ve said, ‘space out’ at least 2,000 times the last two days,” said James Thomas, Houston High football coach.

The most dangerous play to execute this year is avoiding coronavirus.

“Our position is that we, at the moment, do not feel that contact sports are safe,” said Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Department.

Shelby County Schools held a virtual meeting Thursday with athletic directors and coaches.

Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray tweeted, “#WeWantToPlay as much as our athletes. We must follow science and will reconvene after Labor Day.”

Tennessee State Rep. Scott Cepicky from Maury County asked his fellow lawmakers to sign a letter to show support for the TSSAA decision to play high school sports this fall.

“The data does not suggest these athletes are in any more danger than regular citizens,” said Cepicky.

But Tennessee State Rep. Antonio Parkinson from Memphis says if college conferences are postponing the fall season, high schools should too.

“Having sports seasons at this time could cause the spread of the virus to people who are more vulnerable to COVID than the children who brought it home to them” he told Cepicky.

Back at Houston High, the Mustangs’ first game is next week.

“We’re doing everything to make this as safe as possible. But at the end of the day, we have to get close to each other. and at the end of the day, they think the risk is worth the reward,” said Thomas.

Teams must follow TSSAA rules that mirror CDC guidelines.

Schools are still finalizing fan guidelines and stadium capacity.

High school football starts in Tennessee on Aug. 20, in Arkansas on Aug. 27 and in Mississippi on Sept. 3.

Copyright 2020 WMC. All rights reserved.