LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- After about a five month delay, seven Oregon state high schools will begin their football season.
Eugene School District 4J and the Springfield and Bethel school districts opted in to the season after Governor Kate Brown left the decision up to the individual districts to do so.
The plan is a a five-game season that begins on Friday, March 5.
Andy Dey, the high school director for 4J, said this is something that they've been waiting on for a very long time. The three districts worked together to come up with a plan with COVID-19 being the main obstacle.
“We just all agreed, giving all of the factors considered that we felt as though we could safely pull it off,” Dey said.
The season is part of the Oregon School Activities Association's Season 1, which will run from March to April as part of the governing body's plan to play three seasons over the course of six months in Oregon. Games will begin on March 5 and OSAA's culminating week will be the first week of April.
Bethel’s Athletic Director Thomas Armstrong said they anticipate losing some participation in the season, but for the most part, the student athletes are ready to get back to the field. He recognized the adverse affects the pandemic has had on the students.
"A lot of people are extremely excited for this. I mean it's fantastic for young folks to be able to get out there and have some sense of normalcy," Arsmotrong said. "To be active definitely helps with mental health issues and social issues as far as connecting with other students and people."
There will be plenty of COVID-19 safety protocols in place to ensure the safety of the players and the staff. In addition to spectators not being allowed in the stadium, the schools will implement regular rapid response testing and enforce mask wearing during the games.
The games will be livestreamed in order for fans to keep up with their teams.
Even with these precautions in place, Dey said there will still likely be some difficulties during this season.
"We can have teams that don't have any COVID on their team but they're without a contest because the other team does," Dey said, "So I think it's fair to say that all student athletes and families should expect there to be some wrinkles along the way as we roll through."
Riley Edgar, a senior defensive lineman at Sheldon High School in Eugene, said he struggled dealing with the uncertainty of the season, but he's happy things are back to normal.
"I'm glad that we get the opportunity to, you know, kind of get back together and go after this senior season and actually have a chance to, you know, play one last time," Edgard said, "I didn't think it was going to happen."
As the area gets geared up for another action-packed football season, they still await official approval from the Oregon Health Authority. Check back in with KEZI for updates.