Munster high school football season kicks off with COVID-19 safety precautions

MUNSTER, Ind., (WLS) -- It wasn't the homecoming game, but for many, the return to the gridiron felt like coming home.

Noah Poole is a senior at Munster High School, and he took to the field for the start of his final football season Friday night.

"It's really special. A lot of places don't have this right now, so with the correct precautions, it's really nice that we can have this,' said Ethan Castillo, a senior.

The game between the Lake Central Indians and visiting Munster Mustangs ushered in a season that, for players, parents and students is about more than just football.

"We've got the whole family out, and we're just ready to go, ready to win, so very exciting," said Denise Perkins, a parent of a Lake Central Football player.

"There are a lot of nerves and anxiety-- which is every game- but it is heightened for the first game," Poole said before the game. "We are extremely fortunate to play out here, especially with all of the uncertainty surrounding the season."

"This is about doing our best in the pandemic, and this is about being our best selves," said Kris Pilewski, a parent of a Lake Cental Football Player.

Indiana is one of 35 states that will allow fall high school football. Illinois is not one of them.

Fans must wear masks unless they are eating or drinking, and the stands are marked to ensure social distancing.

"I think we're keeping it pretty safe out here. We've got the tape separating us. We're doing good. We've all got our mask on," said Melissa Curtis, a Lake Central High School sophomore.

Players and coaches also took precautions to help decrease the chances of potential exposure to the virus while still playing a contact sport.

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The team is planning to play each game like it could be their last, all while keeping safety top of mine.

"Basically any time you are not on the field, mask on. The team washes all of our uniforms. We disinfect the equipment like the sleds and the pads. The locker rooms also get disinfected," Poole said.

Munster High School's Athletic Director Ira Zimmer said the team has been following IHSAA guidelines since July and has been minimizing contact and sanitizing gear.

"We have six questions asked every day before practice. We take your temperature. As long as you answer no to everything- no symptoms, your temperature checks out, you are good to go," Zimmer said. "We do not practice one drill for more than 10 minutes. They practice social distancing, put their masks on, trainers hand out water, gloves, masks- one time use cups."

Munster High said they have found no positive cases yet.

If that changes, the school said they have a plan.

"Do the tracing and find out who they were with. Then we may have to pull players off. There is a process to follow," Zimmer said.

It is a 9-game season, but the team is looking for a fourth opponent after other local schools canceled the season.

"We want everyone to be safe. We want the kids to have this experience. We are trying," Zimmer said.

The team is planning to play each game like it could be their last, all while keeping safety top of mine.

"Whatever your prerogative is, whether to have a season or keep each other safe, there is a reason for wearing a mask and ultimately there is no excuse for not having one on whenever you can," Poole said.

"We feel alive. I think it's great that we're able to do this and be safe," said Smerna Crenshaw, a parent of a Munster football player.
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