Football teams adapt to lack of fans, energy amid the coronavirus pandemic


Photo by sophomore Olivia Holding.

Freshman quarterback Bennet Gorak prepares to take a snap against the Pike Red Devils on Aug. 29. The bleachers sit empty as a reminder of the strict rules the IHSAA has placed on fall sports. In the background Pike players stand apart from each other to comply with social distancing. The Tigers would go on to win the game 28-0.

Andrew Haughey, Sports Editor

Helmets crash, fans scream, cheerleaders cheer and the marching band plays. These are some sounds that are associated with a high school football game. This year, however, is different for high school sports such as football.

Due to the coronavirus, high school sports such as football had been put on hold until early August. The Tigers began their own season on Aug. 21 against the North Central Panthers with a loss of 40-20. This game lacked some of the aspects that seem to make a football game “normal”, however, as the IHSAA had made some changes to the sport to conform to health guidelines.

The game had a limited number of fans allowed into the stadium, a precaution that will also be applied to all future games. This number was set at 250 fans for each team. In addition to this, players have been assigned their own spot on the sidelines where they are supposed to stand. This is to comply with the social distancing guidelines set by the CDC.

Junior Nathan Allgeier, a JV linebacker for the Tigers, said the atmosphere at games is quite different this year when compared to years past.

“It is definitely a lot harder to get excited as a team due to social distancing,” Allgeier said. “For example, we can’t huddle around guys and congratulate them for scoring a touchdown.”

A lack of energy from the vacant stands has been replaced by a burst of energy from the players. Head coach Curt Funk refers to this energy as “sideline morale” and believes it is one of the most important concepts for the team to be practicing during games.

“They’ve [the players] got to be loud because there isn’t that fan support there that they’re used to. The atmosphere is not there,” Funk said. “They’ve got to focus more on the game and not worry about how there are no fans there.”

Allegier added that, despite the increased effort from the team, they were still hurt by the lack of energy at games.

“Having just the sideline and parents cheering on the team doesn’t come close to the amount of energy that comes from the student section,” Allegier said.

In addition to having to adapt to the lack of student pride and energy at games, players have had to adapt to having a new coach this year after head coach Rick Wimmer stepped down from the position on Dec. 3, 2019. New head coach Funk was the former head coach of 10 years for Mississinewa High School in Gas City.

When he was hired, Funk planned to establish strong bonds with his players.

“Back in February, I was able to be in the building a little bit and start to get to know the kids, but that was interrupted by the pandemic,” Funk said. “Over the summer, we were doing Zoom, but it was hard to get to know each other because there wasn’t that face-to-face interaction. After that, the season hit in August.”

Although not everything has gone as planned, Allegier said he is happy Funk is his coach at this time.

“You can tell he cares about making us the best team we can be and keeping us safe while doing so,” Allegeier said.

The Tigers will play their next game on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. against the Brownsburg Bulldogs, the game will be played at home.