First Football Game Marks Return From COVID

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Photo by Emily Deming

The Blue Streaks may have lost their first game 41-13 to Mount Olive on Oct. 2, but it was a big win for morale.

Emily Deming & Jaedon Wolfrum, Editor in Chief & Sports Editor

The first Friday in October was the first in a long line of Fridays since March to host a school event and our community was eager to attend. 

Warren Hills,  like many other high schools in New Jersey, put into effect a state- mandated remote learning situation effective March 13 until the end of last school year. But now that as a society we’ve adapted to a pandemic lifestyle, returning to school in some form was bound to happen and that includes the beloved Friday night football games.

Especially because it was Senior Night, the first football game of the season was guaranteed to pull in the crowds, but with the heavy sentence a COVID case would give, precautions were taken.  

According to Athletic and Student Activities Director, Michael Jones, preparations included: “Limited seating of 500 with executive order from the governor, touchless sanitizing stations throughout the stadium facility, signage requiring masks and social distancing, temperature checks and marked seating.” 

Whether player or spectator, staff or student, the most important thing about the  game was the feeling of coming together as a community for the first time in nearly eight months. 

For senior sousaphone player, Katie Haber, this game meant more than just a few weeks of Marching Band practice.

“We’re really grateful to have one last time to perform,” she said. “It means the world to us.”

Fourth-year percussionist Henry Goodnick felt similarly. 

“Over the past few months, despite COVID interfering,  we have found the time to safely practice our show,” he said. “We have been able to prepare our first song and it felt great to perform for those who were there.”

Isabella Hobson, a senior Color Guard Member, shared what this game meant to her.

“Our show is less colorful and last year’s was more exciting, but the game brings us together,” she said. “We definitely need this now more than ever and it is really sad. I’m going to miss it a lot, but I’m very excited for what’s to come in the future.”

Senior Night this year included not only football players, cheerleaders, and   marching band members, but cross country members as well.

Glad that even though there is a lot going on right now, we have a night for the seniors and their family,” said Cross Country runner Gavin McHale.

This season also marked the beginning of our Blue Streak Cheerleaders performing after Marching Band during halftime, a change that left senior Hannah DeVoe more than a little nervous.

“I was excited for Senior Night, but I was nervous to perform,” she said. “It is the first time we’ve performed in front of people in a year.”

Samantha Lipinski, the second of three remaining senior cheerleaders, also shared her thoughts.

“It was so much fun feeling some sort of normal with how the circumstances have been during the pandemic,” she said.  “I was really taking it all in. My expectations for this game were pretty high because I really wanted it to go well since that could’ve been our only game.”

But for the stars of the show, the football players themselves, this game meant arguably the most to them.

After playing for the team for four years, I’m glad after all the chaos I can still get a football season and a Senior Night,”  said No. 62 Offensive Linemen Peter Duda.

No. 4 Linebacker and Captain Ricky Lewis talked about what it was like to be in his last high school football season during COVID.

“There was a great energy in practice and all that energy carried over into the first half of the game,” Lewis said. “Things didn’t go as planned in the second half, and we weren’t happy with the end result, but it was nice to be recognized along with the rest of the senior football members, cheerleaders, band members, and cross country for all our hard work.” 

No. 52 Offensive and Defensive Linebacker and Captain Ashton Sozanski, who has played football since elementary school, said although he felt the team could have played better, he was glad they got to play at all.

“Senior Night could’ve gone better, the team needed to execute better and play for four quarters,” he said. “I’m kind of surprised it actually happened. It could have been shut down, just like our opponent was switched 24 hours before the game.”

The game concluded with a Blue Streaks loss 41-13, but that’s not what the game was about, according to Emily Boniface, a senior who watched from the stands.

“Although they didn’t win, I could see a lot of potential for the season,” she said. “It was a great time, especially since I haven’t seen a lot of my peers since last March.”

 Overall,  Athletic Director Jones felt the first football game went well. 

The night was successful from many standpoints,” he said.  “We got to have the parents of every team come and see their child play in band, cheer and football.  Our seniors were recognized as well during this night. “