BELLE VERNON, Pa. (KDKA) — A high school football season unlike any other kicked off in western Pennsylvania on Friday.
Under guidance from the state and Allegheny County, schools chose whether to allow limited fans or none at all. Under county protocol, groups of up to 100 fans on each side were allowed as “pods.” Fans on one side count as one pod.
At McKeesport Area Senior High School, players, band members and cheerleaders were given two tickets each. The Tigers hosted Belle Vernon, and parents were thrilled to even be allowed inside the stadium.
“As a senior mom, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions for the kids and for us,” said Brittany Grabowsky, whose son plays on the McKeesport football team.
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Tickets were purchased online and checked at the gate. Spectators sat on pre-marked spots on the bleachers to maintain social distancing.
Though the ticket limit forced others to stay home, many were able to take advantage of the game’s livestream.
“We set that up so my dad, my parents can watch,” said Loren Scharritter, whose son is a junior on the McKeesport football team. “My family is having a gathering at my parent’s right now.”
At Pine-Richland, 37 fans watched the Rams host Fox Chapel. Each senior football player and cheerleader received one ticket.
At Avonworth, a ticket lottery brought a few dozen fans and a small pep band. However, at West Mifflin, hundreds of people watched from both bleachers.
West Mifflin Athletic Director Scott Stephenson says capacity at the stadium is about 7,000 but estimated around 400 spectators in the home bleachers and 200 people were on the visitor’s side.
The PA announcer at the stadium frequently reminded fans to follow social distancing guidelines.
“People are going to show up anyway,” Stephenson said. “There were people threatening and called us and said, ‘I don’t care if you’re not having fans because we’re coming anyway.’ What do we do at that point?”
Stephenson said West Mifflin did sell a limited number of tickets for Friday’s game against Thomas Jefferson.