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Alabama restarts prep football in test of virus precautions

SeattlePI.com Thursday, 20 August 2020
THORSBY, Ala. (AP) — 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 take 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 trying to remain hopeful the town can avoid a virus outbreak. School officials acknowledged the risk by honoring seniors on the field before the first game rather than at the last since know one knows when the season could end.

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.

Steve Savarese, the executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, said the road to the first game was a challenge.

“I’m just excited to watch our students, our coaches and administrators, spectators ... take an escape from the health challenges we all are facing and just enjoying life again and themselves,” he told a news conference this week.

But the coronavirus has infected more than 106,000 people in Alabama and killed at least 1,876, and reminders of the toll will be everywhere. Tape will cover seats at some stadiums to keep fans spread apart; concessions options will be limited in places and bands and cheerleaders may not travel to away...
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