Virginia high school football players won’t take the field until at least February, but that didn’t stop an enterprising 16 -year-old from organizing his own impromptu football.
Students from Potomac, Freedom, Stafford, North Stafford, Mountain View, Chancellor, Riverbend, Colonial Forge, Courtland, and Brooke Point high schools converged on the fields at Embrey Mill Park in Stafford County last weekend for a series of football games.
The event was organized by Tristyn Palmer, 16, a student at Colonial Forge High School, that drew about 50, including spectators, to both play and watch the games.
The gathering got the attention of county officials who were sent to the ball field to check to see what was going on. Under Gov. Ralph Northam’s reopening guidelines, there’s a 250-person limit on outdoor gatherings.
“The spectators were stationed along the sidelines in separate pop-up tents. Many were not wearing masks, however, masks are not required in open outdoor settings,” states an email from Stafford County Parks and Recreation Director Micheal Morris.
County parks and recreation staff asked if they had reserved the field, and learned they hadn’t.
“The group told the staff that their understanding was ‘if the fields are open and not being used and as long as they did not charge people to play they could use the fields,'” Morris’ email states. “Additionally, the use of athletic fields is open to the general public and the county has no legal authority to restrict the use of parks and athletic fields when they are open and not currently reserved.”
The county suggested that next time, the group alert the county before they come to the field to play and to file a plan indicating how the group plans to socially distance to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“The kids just wanna play football,” said D.J. Palmer, Tristyn’s father. “All players had their temps checked before participating. All parents and fans utilized social distancing efforts. All teams had separate tented areas for their kids.”
So far, there are no new plans to hold additional football games, however, Palmer said he’s looking to start a high school league at the Fredericksburg Fieldhouse, located just off Routes 2 and 17 in Fredericksburg.
“It will be a safe environment that would offer the kids a chance to stay active this fall,” said Palmer.