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High school sports return without COVID-19 restrictions

High school athletes and coaches enjoy a return to athletics without COVID-19 restrictions

TONAWANDA, N.Y. — It is back to school time and that means back to Friday night football and all the other high school sports.

For many people there is a sense of relief, that at least for now, that they are back to normal, restriction-free, for the first time for most of these student-athletes. 

"I was just grateful to be able to play, so, I mean it was different, but I mean at least there was a season," Kenmore West junior Kayleigh Davis said. And for the past two and a half years that is the way Davis and every other student athlete have had to look at their seasons. 

But this year, that dark cloud of COVID-19 has seemed to have lifted to the delight of everyone from players to coaches, right on up to Section VI Executive Director Mark Difilippo. 

"It's gonna be really good to argue about seating placements and transfer rules and all of our other rules and regulations rather than worry about masks and spectator rules in covid protocol," Difilippo said.

"It was just great to just have that full summer to plan, prepare and not to worry about restrictions or limitations, masks and social distance," Kenmore West girls soccer coach Ken Belote said. 

It also means not having to worry about everything from paperwork, to how many players could be in the same room said Ken West football coach John Haynes. 

"The biggest factor was the time because when that was going on, obviously (with) the locker room situation you have to be in the locker room like 45 minutes to an hour beforehand to get the kids out there because you could only have a certain amount of kids (in the locker room) at a time," Haynes said.

Another thing that was lost, or became increasingly difficult was recruiting for those players who were hoping to continue playing in college. For them, this is a new day, with them all pushing forward toward a brand new start. 

"It's fun, I'm just happy that there are not a lot of restriction and I could just be me and play with my teammates," said Jermaine Atkins, a senior hoping to play Division I football next year. 

For Difilippo, without the constraints of COVID-19, he was able to tackle an athletics-related issue head-on this week, getting a contract agreement done with league officials. 

"We're happy that we have a tentative agreement with the officials because we you know we need the officials to have our games go on," Difilippo said.

And while that contract still needs to be ratified later this month, Difilippo is confident that will be a mere formality, and it is finally a season of scholastic sports without the constraints of the pandemic.

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