South Mississippi high school sports fans adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions

South Mississippi high school sports fans adjusting to COVID-19 restrictions

GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Despite a delay to the season and COVID-19 restrictions, fans finally got to gather in Milner Stadium for a jamboree matchup between Gulfport High School and St. Stanislaus Friday night.

The game was a sign that high school athletics were slowly coming back but with a new look - an occupancy restriction and a mask mandate for fans in the stands.

That still did not kill any excitement.

“I knew God would make a way for me to come because I’m their number one fan,” Tabitha Smith said.

Only 500 tickets could have been sold for the game and fans had to wear masks to get into the stadium as well as when walking to the bathrooms and concession stands.

However, some students weren’t happy with rules that did not allow cheerleaders and the band to be at away games.

“The band makes the game, the band and the cheerleaders you know. We have to get used to this I guess until all of this clears up,” said Gulfport High student Daniya Mitchell.

Others didn’t feel like the evening felt like a real matchup.

“It’s exciting, but at the same time, it’s a disappointment. I mean, I’m glad we had a game but I don’t feel the same way about it,” said Gulfport High student Aryanna Watson.

The new changes have coaches, players and fans adjusting to a new athletics experience, and they also have schools dealing with less income coming their way.

“There’s no denying that there’s a financial aspect to this. We’re going to make 10% what we would normally make on a jamboree night,” said Bryan Caldwell, athletic director at Gulfport High School.

However, there’s still hope for change in the future.

“I’m hopeful that Monday we’re going to hear that maybe we get to go to 25% capacity,” Caldwell said.

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