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A whole new game

Football kicked off, but that’s not what people talked about

  • The photo that took social media by storm Saturday in Anderson County: Anderson County High School Football Coach Davey Gillum (standing) and Clinton High School Head Football Coach Darrell Keith (kneeling) praying in the rain after their teams played each other to kick off the 2020 season in Anderson County Friday night. - David Woods

  • The hottest tickets in town Friday night were found on phones — or on a piece of paper printed at home — as 2,000 tickets for Friday football opener were sold online only. - David Woods

It was a picture posted on social media — on Facebook — that Anderson Countians were talking about after last Friday night’s football game at Anderson County High School.

“Please, publish this, this is what our community is about,” one suggestion to The Courier News read.

“Let’s share this ... Great positive picture for our players and the community,” another read.

It’s hard to pin down what was the most exciting aspect of last Friday night’s 2020 high school football season opener in Anderson County.

Was the buzz in the air because it was Anderson County High School playing Clinton High School?

The annual “Battle of the Bridge?”

“I, myself, would like for the trophy to be named something like the “Sportsmanship Trophy,” Anderson County Commissioner and Chairman Tracy Wandell said during that body’s meeting the Monday before the game. “I’d like to change that from ‘The Battle of the Bridge.’”

Or was the excitement generated because after a spring of no games and summer of no practices folks in Anderson County were just ready for football?

Or was it because of all he uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic has created, there, at 130 Maverick Circle, some of that uncertainty was going to be put to rest.

During that Monday, Aug. 17, meeting Anderson County Director of School Dr. Tim Parrott outlined some of things that would be “different” about this football season opener in Anderson County.

A game was played. There was blocking and tackling, passes caught and broken up. In an area 100 yards long and 50 yards wide, everything was the same as it used to be before COVID-19 became a part of our culture.

But there would be differences, too.

The cheerleaders would be in different areas on the field, the bands as well.

Temperatures of everyone entering the stadium would be taken, protective masks would be required to enter the stadium, and only 2,000 tickets would be sold — all of them prior to the game. No tickets were sold at the gate Friday night.

In fact, the majority of the tickets were purchased online.

Parrott told County Commission Maverick Stadium seated 1,400, but with fans lining the playing field — many in lawn chair they had brought for the game — 2,000 would be the maximum number of spectators allowed.

In fact, the captains of the game — Clinton’s Trent Herrell and Anderson County’s Stone Cummins — weren’t allowed to shake hands after the coin toss at the beginning of the game.

“And I don’t want anyone to think that Anderson County and Clinton don’t like each other,” Parrott said. “But the TSSAA (Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association) says the students (including the players) can not meet after the game and shake hands.”

And that’s where the photo comes in.

In typical Anderson County fashion, the coaches and players came up with a solution. Both teams lined the length of the field, the coaches gathered in the middle — while practicing social distancing — and they knelt and prayed in the rain.


“Please, share this,” a message read.