Alabama restarts prep football in test of virus precautions

Full Screen
1 / 12

Copyright 2020, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Thorsby players takes the field at an Alabama high school football game between Jemison and Thorsby, Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, in Thorsby, Ala. High school football returned to Alabama in a test of whether players can crash into each other, fans can scream and bands can play without worsening the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

THORSBY, Ala. – It's mostly quiet in the Alabama farming community of Thorsby aside from trucks and trains that rumble through bound for someplace larger. Remembering directions to the town's football stadium isn't hard; there aren't that many roads to take or turns to miss along the way.

It's there, on Susan Bentley Field, that the Thorsby Rebels took on rival Jemison High School on Thursday night in their first game of the season. Prep football is returning in a high-stakes test of whether players can crash into each other, fans can scream and bands can play without worsening the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor, who volunteers as a sideline official, is leery yet hopeful the town can avoid a virus outbreak.

The game began with Thorsby, in maroon uniforms, kicking off to Jemison in white. A big cheer went up when Jemison scored a touchdown on its first possession. Anyone entering the stadium was supposed to wear a face covering, but many didn’t.

Others donned masks just outside the chain-link fence and took them off once inside. Hundreds of people filled concrete bleachers, and dozens more stood along the fence that ringed field. Some family groups were spread out, and few people wore masks.

Wearing a clear shield over her face, Carolyn Endress tilted her head back to take a photo of one of her two grandchildren who play in Jemison’s marching band. She said it was good to have football back.

“I wish it was under better conditions though,” she said.

While school and athletics officials said they were taking multiple precautions as dozens of games kick off across Alabama on Thursday night and Friday, some teams already have canceled games after players or coaches were infected during summer practice.