Neuqua holds its first football game in two years, but the fear of COVID-19 remains


Adam Hristov

Neuqua Valley and Oswego conclude their game with mutual respect.

On Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, the Neuqua Valley football team held its first football game with spectators in nearly two years. The night brought back a sort of normalcy for Neuqua students who were unable to participate in Friday Night Lights due to the pandemic. As the Wildcats defeated Oswego High School with a score of 37-26, the crowd was louder than ever. Chants, cheers and jeers rang through Barb Barrows Stadium as Junior Grant Larkin and Senior Carter Sessa scored two touchdowns apiece. And while the team was victorious, a greater air buzzed around the stands: the air of importance and excitement of finally bringing back a staple of the Neuqua Valley High School experience.

“These are the high school memories later down the line in your life that you think back on. The atmosphere was amazing, indescribable.” – Akhil Yerramsetty.

“These are the high school memories later down the line in your life that you think back on. The atmosphere was amazing, indescribable,” said Neuqua junior Akhil Yerramsetty, drenched in sweat outside of the huddled mass of the student section. Moments like these are what some Neuqua students have longed for during the shutdown. The nationwide tradition of Friday night lights is as strong as ever. The tradition means so many students, families, and players can take pride in representing their school.

“Freshman year, I got onto the Neuqua Gold Rush [Instagram] page for starting a chant, and I was really excited to do that again, and I did so it’s really fun to get people hyped up,” Junior Ritesh Murkheji exclaimed about his favorite highlight of Friday Night Lights.

Even with the excitement of the first game, the fears of COVID-19 remained. In the time throughout the stands and surrounding Neuqua Area, very few masks were worn. Vaccinated or not, many people have continued to contract COVID-19, especially with the emergence of the Delta variant. Neuqua Valley works to keep school open with a state-wide mask mandate and overall social distancing rules enforced indoors, while not enforcing masks outdoors.

“I think it’s an individual stance; if you want to keep others safe or if you feel comfortable without [a mask], then that’s your choice,” Yerramsetty stated when asked about his concerns about COVID during an event like this.

Some students were not as enthusiastic about the mask situation. Murkheji, for example, expressed his concerns about the school potentially shutting down again.

“I’m honestly not too optimistic about school staying open, but I don’t want to get my hopes up… it’s important to be safe, but you can still have fun when being safe.” Conditions may change in the future concerning transmission outside of school but the school hopes rules like these will help the chances of completing the school year.

The Wildcats look to move to 2-0 as they visit Wheaton Warrenville South next Friday, Sept. 3. The Neuqua Valley community and all of District 204 look forward to a healthy and exciting school year and football season.