Only select fans will be allowed into football games

Fans at high school games, like these at a Smyrna High contest a few years ago, will mostly be limited to two family members per game participant this fall. Delaware State News file photo

High school football fans are probably looking forward to the return of the sport in a couple weeks.

But, unless they’re related to one of the home-team participants, they’ll have to watch the games online.

While some schools are still finalizing their plans, it looks like all 14 Henlopen Conference schools with football programs will be following the same basic guidelines.

And the only spectators allowed into games will be two family members of the home-team participants — players, cheerleaders and band members.

That means no visiting-team fans or non-player participants will be permitted into the game. Schools are hoping to provide online streaming of games for a fee.

All this is being done because there is a limit of 250 people at outside events in Delaware right now. The restriction is in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

That limit includes everyone in the stadium, from players and coaches to referees.

Schools will be required to have contact information from everyone at the game in case of a virus outbreak. Game participants will be expected to provide that information for the people receiving their tickets.

Spectators will have to wear face coverings and be socially distant from non-family members in the stands. Schools are starting to post their specific guidelines on their athletic websites.

“The biggest thing is requiring people to wear that mask,” said Seaford athletic director Jerry Kobasa. “It’s an unprecedented time, uncharted waters. You’re just going to have to work with it. It’s just the idea of getting them in and getting these kids playing again and seeing the smiles on their faces — well, behind the mask anyway.”

After originally being delayed until 2021, the football season in Delaware will now start on Oct. 23. Each team will play a seven-game regular season with either three or four home games.

Henlopen Conference teams are playing six league games with one non-conference date.

Nationally, there’s a great deal of difference in how states are allowing high school football to be played during the pandemic.

Fourteen states, mostly in the middle of the country, didn’t make any changes to the schedule. Twenty-one states are playing with some modification and 15 aren’t playing football until next year.

Regionally, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey are playing with some modifications while Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, New York and most of the New England states aren’t playing until 2021.