AMERICAN FORK — It’s the type of spectacle most wouldn’t even think possible during a football game, including American Fork athletic director Jeremy Lewis.
But a lot of unforeseen things have come about with the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to truly extraordinary action.
The scene was American Fork hosting Timpview on Thursday night in the second week of the Utah high school football season. Things were going well for the Cavemen during the first half before Lewis stopped the contest, asking all fans in attendance to comply with the safety guidelines outlined in order for games to be played.
“I’m just the messenger and that’s just me doing my job,” Lewis said. “More and more we get to realize the privilege we all have in Utah to actually be at football games, and certainly for the kids to be out there — playing the game that they love. So my job is to help ensure it happens and can continue. We all want that.”
American Fork High School AD Jeremy Lewis stopped his school's football game due to fans not following mask and social distancing requirements.— Stadium (@Stadium) August 21, 2020
He would not allow play to resume until fans followed the guidelines. pic.twitter.com/RCq3Jt8nRM
The delay felt longer than it actually was, as Lewis simply asked those in attendance to comply with the restrictions set in place — namely wearing masks and maintaining social distance in the stands.
“We’ve sold the stadium at 25% capacity and we’ve asked people to stay in their assigned sections,” Lewis said. “It’s about not being grouped together and simply wearing masks.”
Lewis told the crowd that play would not continue until fans complied with the guidelines set in place. The response may have been a bit slow at first, given the unusual circumstance, before several fans were seen distancing themselves in the stands while others who weren’t wearing masks put them on again.
“Our fans are great here and we were counting on all of them to comply, and we eventually saw that,” Lewis said. “But at the same time, we’re absolutely serious about this. We have our instructions put in place and it’s my job to make certain those instructions are followed.”
In the end it’s about ensuring that football can be played and can continue being played until mid-November when the final two teams in each classification battle for the championship. For Lewis, seeing the season unfold on schedule is a responsibility he takes seriously.
“It’s everything. It really is,” Lewis said. “I’m an athletic director because of the experiences I was able to have as a high school athlete. I want these kids to have the same experience I did — all of them. So I’ll do whatever it takes to help make certain these kids have the best experience possible, and if that’s by making people wear masks, then that’s what I’ll do.”
- American Fork High School students wear masks while watching the football game against Timpview in American Fork on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Laura Seitz, Deseret News
- Spectators wear masks while watching the American Fork vs. Timpview high school football game in American Fork on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. Laura Seitz, Deseret News
- Spectators wear masks while watching the high school football game between American Fork and Timpview in American Fork on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. The game was halted several times due to spectators not following the mask mandate. Laura Seitz, Deseret News
- American Fork High School students disperse after crowding into the student section during the football game against Timpview in American Fork on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020. The game was stopped as students moved to their assigned seats. Laura Seitz, Deseret News
Sacrifices have been made by just about everyone in the past few months to help ensure that things can get back to normal, with football being no different.
“We all have to make sacrifices or this great opportunity for our kids will be taken away,” Lewis said. “That’s the last thing I want to see happen and I know everyone feels the same. So let’s follow the rules the best we can and see this thing through.”