GLADSTONE, Ore. — If the bright lights across the Portland metro area did not give it away already, high school football is back in Oregon.
Gladstone High School kicked off its season Friday evening against Estacada. Senior Ryan Lee will tell you the months-long wait because of COVID was even longer for him.
"I've been waiting for my senior year of football since my third grade year of football," he said.
Lee could never have guessed his senior season would look like it does.
Face coverings will be required for everybody in the stadium, even players on the field. You will see lots of signage to encourage mask wearing and social distancing. There will be extra benches on the sidelines so players can spread out. There will be COVID-19 symptom screening as well.
Lee and his teammates are taking it all in stride.
"The fact that I'm able to go out there with my best, lifelong friends and play football is really special," he said.
Lee will get to play in front of loved ones, at least a couple. Juniors and seniors on Gladstone's team will get two tickets to each home game to give to family.
"Hopefully the communication has gone out and people have received it, and we're asking for them to be considerate and respectful to what we're trying to accomplish," said Gladstone Athletic Director Cody Aker.
Aker cannot let the number of fans, players, coaches and game personnel in the stadium exceed 150, but that will not look the same in every county. Fans are prohibited in high and extreme risk counties.
"Safety is the priority for the students, coaches, officials, anyone involved in the event," said Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) Executive Director Peter Weber. "Making sure they're following the mitigation protocols."
Mitigation protocols and all will not get in the way of Lee and his teammates making lasting memories.
"This is more of a special senior year," Lee said. "It helps me value what I usually took for granted."