Late last week, the deadly mosquito virus, Triple-E was discovered in Tyngsboro. Luckily, the victim was not a human but a horse, which is still sad nonetheless.
The discovery of the disease has prompted Tyngsboro football to move its game with Ayer-Shirley from Friday night to Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., which in terms of fan safety is a good idea.
But in talking with people at Groton-Dunstable, last year's Triple-E outbreak caused the donor-funded program to take a decisive knock financially. Groton-Dunstable is not funded by taxpayer dollars but relies solely on donations and gate receipts.
On average, 600-800 people attend a Crusaders football game on any given Friday night. Multiply that number by $5 and you will get a total profit of 3,000-$4,000 dollars. Move the game to a Saturday morning or afternoon, and the attendance numbers drop significantly. High school football is made for Friday nights. Unfortunately, nature, especially in the first two weeks of the season, does not always cooperate.
Groton-Dunstable athletic director Mike McCaffrey said that the school does not make the call on whether to move games as a result of the threat of Triple-E. The Board of Health does.
Why can't fans take the necessary precautions of spraying insect repellent with deet before making the decision to sit for a long period of time? To me, it is just common sense. Before I leave my car to cover a game, I spray some sort of repellent on my clothes to help lessen the bite of mosquitos.
Coaches more than ever are equipped with cans of insect repellent in their medicine kits. Especially out in this area, many of the fields are surrounded by woods.
Groton-Dunstable's football field is built on wetlands where spraying is prohibited.
At how much risk are athletes for being subjected to Triple-E? The majority of the athletes are moving around at high rates of speed; the number of times they are at a standstill is minimal. In my experience, the more sedentary you are, the more likely you are to be bitten by a mosquito.
Football is meant to be played under the lights, not on Saturday afternoons. There is something about seeing that florescent glow as you slowly roll up to a stadium on a brisk autumn night. I don't get the same feeling sitting around until 2 p.m. to watch a high school football game.
Isn't it funny how a creature no bigger than your thumbnail can impact the lives of hundreds of people? Ayer-Shirley has required its football team's practice to end by no later than 5 p.m. in the hope of limiting the spread of the mosquito-carried disease. It seems like football coaches in the area understand the dangers of the disease.
But, let's face it, every coach and player wants to play on Friday night.
I think I can speak for anyone who has played high school football when I say, the way the time moves leading up to kickoff is unbearably slow. Now, not only do players have to make it through the school day on Friday, they have to wait until Saturday afternoon to get those competitive juices flowing again. But, like everything, there is another side to the coin.
Moving the game until Saturday does give teams an extra day of preparation, whether it be reviewing film or working on special teams. Sometimes that extra day of practice goes a long way when the season starts to hit its stride.
Whether football is played on Friday night or on a Saturday afternoon, one thing is certain. It is still football.
Remember crunch time for battling mosquitos is right now. So if you are heading out to a late game or outside for any duration of time, wear long sleeves and pants if it is not too warm to do so. Triple-E is nothing to take lightly.
As of now, Ayer-Shirley's opener against Tyngsboro is the only game affected by Triple-E fears. North Middlesex at Doherty and Gardner at Groton-Dunstable are both on at their regular scheduled times of Friday at 7 p.m.
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