COLORADO SPRINGS — While the X's & O's of a football game take center stage after kickoff, it's what Athletic Directors like District 11's Chris Noll have done prior to it, that makes all the difference.
"When you come to a game you're going to be in a mask, practice social distancing, we're going to get you through the gates as quickly as possible," Noll said. "That's just something we have to do to keep everyone safe."
It was a long battle but high school football is back in Colorado and with it all the concerns of playing through a pandemic.
"Field-level is going to look different when people come to our games," Noll said. "Team boxes are going to be from the 10-yard line to the other 10-yard line. Cheerleaders and bands will be in the end zones."
For venues like Garry Berry Stadium, which will host District 11 and District 20 home games this season, the planning began weeks before kickoff and includes dozens of safety protocols.
"People are going to have to know what gate they're coming in, we have three different groups. Group A, Group G, and Group K," Noll said.
Per El Paso County regulations, attendance will be capped in each section with fans sitting spaced out in pods.
"We're going with the divided Zigzag model, we'll put one person in the bleacher, the next row will be spaced six-feet apart, we'll Zigzag that, then skip every third row," Noll said.
Another major hurdle was figuring out how those in the stands can safely navigate the stadium.
"The thing you need to provide each group is an entrance, exit, and separate restroom facilities," Noll said. "At the concession stands, nachos, cheese cups, pretzels, drinks, everything will be pre-packaged."
All part of the price of doing business during COVID-19, if this season is to succeed.
"Are we anxious? Are our anxiety levels a little bit high?" Noll said. "They are because we want to keep the kids safe but we also know a little bit of normalcy and Friday Night Football is a good thing for kids."