Football games kick off after COVID school year


Photo Courtesy of RM Hells Kitchen

RM students pack the stands decked out in black and gold to support the varsity football team. They faced off against Urbana on RM’s home turf earlier this season, on Sept. 3.

Juliette Bolte, Sports Writer

After more than a year of empty stands, Friday night football at Richard Montgomery is once again hosting spectators. Given the games are an important fall social event, their return has attracted crowds of students, all excited to socialize and show their Rocket pride. At the center of it all is the student section, where school traditions bring energy to the fans and players.

“The atmosphere is so fun,” junior Raya Arora said. “You can feel the spirit because everyone’s always dressed up and Hell’s Kitchen leads a bunch of fun cheers.” The time spent apart during quarantine has clearly strengthened the sense of community felt at the games. “It’s very fun, enjoyable, spirited, loud, and chaotic in a good way,” senior Selma Hamza said.

Last year, with COVID-19 circulating and the student body unvaccinated, such gatherings were out of the question. Going into the 2021 fall athletic season, many were skeptical of whether football could host fans in a way that balanced safety and enjoyment. Now, with the situation improving and students back for in-person learning, allowing spectators is an important step towards normalcy.

The Return to R.A.I.S.E plan, which has been in effect since May of this year, outlines MCPS Athletics’ strategy for transitioning back to in-person sports. Masks and social distancing remain the suggestion, but guidelines are more lenient for outdoor gatherings, where transmission is much less frequent, according to the CDC. Although not all spectators follow these recommendations, most favor the COVID precautions since they have not appeared to detract from the enjoyment at the football games. 

“I don’t mind masks at all,” Arora said. “I wear mine at the games and it doesn’t make my experience any better or worse.” 

“I think it’s very reasonable to have kids and fans wear masks in the stands to the extent possible,” history teacher Todd Stillman said. 

Also reassuring for many, Maryland is one among the states leading in vaccinations. As of Oct. 1, an estimated 83 percent of eligible candidates received at least one vaccine dose according to the Maryland COVID-19 Data Dashboard. “I feel much more comfortable now that people are vaccinated,” Hamza said.

The data and cautionary measures being taken have given most spectators enough peace of mind to focus on simply enjoying the football games. However, the spread of the virus remains a concern for some. Fortunately, those fans who may feel uncomfortable being in the more crowded student section always have the option to enjoy the game from the rest of the stands. These areas are more secluded and removed from the center of the action and cheering. 

After these first football games, there is a sense of optimism regarding large social events at Richard Montgomery. “People have just been really excited and enthusiastic about coming back,” Mr. Stillman said. Despite the year of setbacks, the return to hosting fans has been relatively smooth, suggesting a promising post-COVID future.