The high school football season opens tonight around the state, and the Fernandina Beach Pirates are heading to Yulee to kick off the 2020 season.
But, don’t plan on showing up without a ticket. Through collaboration between the Nassau County School Board and athletic directors, new guidelines will be enforced to ensure the safety of players, cheerleaders, the band and fans.
“We are actually sold out,” said Candy Hicken, athletic director at Yulee High School. “This is the biggest home game of the year, and we had just 100 tickets for Fernandina Beach High School. Our facility is the smallest. Everyone else has a capacity higher than ours.”
Seating capacity has been limited to 50 percent at all sports facilities, so tonight’s attendance is limited to 350. School board employees will be admitted, but must bring their own chair.
Hicken also said fans with tickets may also bring a chair.
“They can bring a chair if they feel like they need to stay away from others to be safe,” Hicken said. “Grandparents are coming, and that worries me.”
The south end zone will be set up for lawn chair seating, and the band will be in the north end zone.
“We’re trying to have a safe environment,” Hicken said.
If you don’t have a ticket, you can still watch the game. Hicken said the game will be livestreamed on either Facebook Live or YouTube Live.
Social distancing will be encouraged, temperatures will be checked at the gate, and masks are required.
“We’re as ready as we’re going to be,” FBHS Coach Jude Swearingen said. “Trying to get ready with just one week in shoulder pads, and trying to get that going in one week, it’s a rushed deal. The kids are ready.”
Swearingen said he was disappointed some parents won’t be in attendance for the game.
“It’s tough not letting all the parents in,” he said. “We’ve got a hundred tickets. I’ve got 60 players plus our cheerleaders, so every parent is not going to be able to get into the game.
“I don’t know how it’s realistic to do it this way. If we’re not letting all the parents into the game, then we shouldn’t be letting anyone in the game. I feel strong about that. If it’s that big of a deal and we’ve got to put up with them, we shouldn’t have anybody there.
“I’m a little frustrated with that because of my kids. I have a feeling that’s going to affect their focus. They’re going to be wondering if their parents could get in. What happens if something happens to them. Who’s going to take care of them?
“Other than that, we’re ready. We’re going to be on point, and we’ll see how things go.”
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. tonight at Yulee High School.
“I’m really excited for all the kids to finally be able to go out and play a game,” YHS Coach Terrence Flagler said.