The fall high school sports season begins next week, and Carroll County is prepared to have small crowds at select events for the first time in more than a year.
As more students are returning to school buildings, starting next month, county officials are planning to allow spectators to attend outdoor high school athletics in step with guidelines from Gov. Larry Hogan and the state’s health department.
Michael Duffy, the county’s supervisor of athletics, spoke during Wednesday night’s Board of Education meeting and said the public will be able to attend outdoor events with a limit of 250 spectators. For boys and girls soccer, and junior varsity football games, Duffy said two tickets will be given to each home and visiting team participant. Varsity football games, keeping in mind the potential for cheerleaders and marching bands that may attract bigger audiences, will allow for two tickets per home team participant. Duffy said any remaining tickets will be allotted for the visiting team.
Sideline passes, special lanyards with proper credentials, will be given to the two spectators accompanying each field hockey, cross country, and golf athlete. Duffy said the high school stadium cameras are being updated to stream games via the NFHS Network for those who don’t attend, and the system and ticket sale procedures are being adjusted to eliminate the use of cash.
The county will be using a mobile ticketing platform called GoFan, and Duffy said spectators will be able to use their smartphones in an effort to reduce contact and allow for more spacing between school staff and those entering the stadium.
“We’re going to ask [people’s] assistance with us in keeping it to the two,” Duffy said about ticketing. “If it gets beyond the 250, we’re then out of compliance with the governor’s order and at that point we simply may need to shut down attendance altogether and we don’t want to do that. We don’t want parents to miss opportunities to see their students.”
Volleyball won’t have the same luxury ― Duffy said the county is sticking to its policy of not allowing spectators indoors as it did throughout the winter season.
“It’s our expectation that we’re going to get through this ‘spring-fall’ season in that manner,” said Duffy said, who added that it may take about a week to make any adjustments to the number of tickets allotted if Hogan alters Maryland’s restrictions.
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All spectators will be required to wear face covering and exhibit social distancing during the games, Duffy said, in order to follow the state’s guidelines.
Carroll’s fall sports season is slated to begin March 5 with football. Cross country action follows March 6, then field hockey on March 8, and soccer and volleyball on March 9. Golf matches are set to begin March 16.
Football is starting with some changes ― the first Friday’s slate of games is moving to the artificial turf surfaces at Western Regional Park in Woodbine because of unplayable field conditions in Carroll. Liberty and Westminster face off March 5 at 4:30 p.m., followed by Century taking on Manchester Valley. The Winters Mill-South Carroll game is now March 6 at 6 p.m. at Western Regional.
The fall season runs from March 5 through April 17, and practice for the spring season starts on that day. The spring plays dates go from May 7 through June 19.
“I’m glad to hear good vibes there, that’s great,” said school board President Marsha Herbert. “People do want to see activities outside. And rightfully so.”
Duffy said he’s certain they are eager to attend, but wondered how weather will play a role going forward.
“We’ll see how warm it is the first couple weeks of March [with] how seriously they want to see it outside,” Duffy said. “Because there’s a difference between wanting to see something outside and sitting in the frigid cold outside.”