The high school football season kicks off this weekend and the way the game is played and viewed will be very different. The impact of COVID-19 is like a dark cloud hanging over sports and each week will present challenges to the 43 football-playing schools in the Shore Conference.

Some of those changes include a revised regular-season schedule of just six games based largely on geography and without divisions and a still not finalized two week postseason with no championships. As I’ve said many times the true success of this season will just be playing each week and a few teams have already found out how difficult that is.

However, there are many other changes in store as we get set for opening weekend. The NJSIAA has as issued rule modifications to the five conferences in the state and while they serve more so as guidelines most schools in the Shore Conference will use this as their game plan for this season. What’s listed below might not be exactly what each school is doing but it’s pretty much a game plan that will be adopted by the majority.

SPECTATORS
This one will likely cause administrators the biggest headache. Governor Murphy’s outdoor limit of 500 people applies to football games although participants (players, coaches, staff, cheerleaders, band, etc.) do not count against that number. The recommendation is that players, cheerleaders, and band members of the home team each be given two tickets for their family. The home team will provide at least 100 of their 500 to the visiting team for use at their discretion.
THERE WILL BE NO GAME DAY TICKETS SOLD….ONLY THOSE DISTRIBUTED IN ADVANCE BY THE PARTICIPATING TEAMS WILL BE HONORED FOR ADMISSION.

Spectators will be expected to wear face coverings and social distancing will be required. Schools will likely mark their bleachers in some fashion that complies with social distancing guidelines.

Note that the visiting team cannot bring their band or cheerleaders.

OTHER SUGGESTED GUIDELINES
• The team box will be extended on both sides of the field to the 10-yard line to create more social-distancing for the teams. Usually, the box is from the 30 to 30-yard lines.
• The pregame coin toss will be limited to referee, umpire, and one designated representative from each team in the center of the field with individuals maintaining social distance of 6 feet. No handshakes prior to and following the coin toss.
• There will be no shaking of hands before or after the game by players/coaches.
• Participants are not allowed inside the school building/locker room. Pregame and halftime will be conducted at a specific location in close proximity to the stadium/field. Players will likely be dressed when they arrive.
• Visiting team will conduct temperature checks of their own team and personnel prior to arriving on the home team’s campus.
• Home team will take the temperature of game officials who are required to fill out the COVID-19 questionnaire.
• Snack Stands will NOT be open.
• Only varsity players should dress for games…no freshman or junior varsity players.

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