It’s the third Friday in August, and the bright lights that are supposed to be on at high school football stadiums across the state of North Carolina won’t be burning tonight.
Three of the four Lincoln County teams were scheduled to be in action tonight to kickoff the season, with West Lincoln traveling to Draughn, North Lincoln hosting Parkwood and Lincolnton at home against Stuart Cramer.
East Lincoln had an open week scheduled for week one, and was set to host East Rowan next Friday in their season opener.
But none of that is happening. Not this week, not next Friday, and no time in the near future.
COVID-19 has changed many things for all of us, and tonight we are reminded of yet another. The North Carolina High School Athletic Association has moved the beginning of football practice to February 8, 2020, and the opening games to February 26. And at this point, we can only hope that happens.
Looking back at the 2019 season openers, no county team was more impressive than West Lincoln. The Rebels rolled to a 52-13 home win over Draughn, propelling the West Lincoln football team to a 10-win season. The Rebels picked up their first ever playoff win at Ashe County, then defeated perennial power South Point at home in round two before a huge crowd.
North Lincoln lost a 29-22 overtime thriller at Parkwood on opening night, and Lincolnton fell 10-7 at Cramer in a defensive struggle. Both of those contests were delayed due to weather, and played or concluded on a different night.
And after having the first week off of the 2019 season, East Lincoln rolled to a 41-7 season-opening victory at East Rowan.
That said, it’s just a reminder of what we will miss tonight. High school football on a hot, humid August night is something we’ve all become accustomed to.
But not tonight. No Friday night lights. No loud yells from the cheerleaders or school songs being played by the marching bands.
No running through the banners and getting fired up and excited about the impending game. No kickoffs, no big plays and no winners.
Tonight is just sad. We sports fans have something else taken from us that we love. The smell of Friday night high school football in the air.
We’ll miss it. And not just tonight, but throughout the fall.
Hopefully high school football will be able to return in the spring of 2020 for everyone involved. It can’t get here soon enough.