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Tuscarawas County high school teams fear Friday night lights shut off during pandemic: 88 Counties in 88 Days

COVID-19 is leaving many players and coaches in the dark when it comes to their season

NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio — This content is part of our 88 Counties in 88 Days coverage, which focuses on the current issues Ohioans are facing in this election year. 

Friday night football is an event that brings the whole community together, especially in New Philadelphia. Players, coaches, and community members anticipate the return of football each Fall. 

“In Tuscarawas county, and in this part of the state in general, football is a cultural thing for us.” Coach Matt Dennison said 

Dennison is also the school’s athletic director and said that canceling sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic can take a toll on the student's social and emotional health. He believes that this issue is coming to the forefront as the Centers for Disease Control want students back in school. 

“We’re not going to be in normal times right now,” Dennison said, “but to get some normalcy in their life, to get some routine in their lives I think it’s so important with kids this age.”

If the season is postponed, one concern is the lack of money that will come in. Unlike most schools, the New Philadelphia football team does not get money from the school to pay coaches or travel to games. 

Fundraising and money raised at games are the school's primary source of monetary resources. 

“The things we’re looking at now, if we take $200,000 out of our budget from not having football it can be devastating not only to this sport but to all sports,” Dennison said.

Players have been feeling the effects of the pandemic as well, and all they want to do is get back to their season. 

“The concern is COVID-19. And we don't know if our season is going to get postponed, cancelled, we’re certainly hoping that it doesn't get cancelled,” said New Philadelphia player, Mitchell Stokey.

Senior Logan Ort said Friday nights are important to the community, and that’s what he is looking forward to.

“It’s been a bumpy road,” Ort said, “but hopefully we can get the season going. for us the work all year round, definitely for a senior like myself I want to have one last go-round here in New Philly.”