The Montgomery County Council voted Friday to allow high school football teams to play games a week after ruling competitions were too dangerous amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the council voted to permit competitions for most fall sports, such as cross-country, field hockey, golf, soccer and volleyball. However, the county deemed football, cheerleading and pompoms as high-risk sports that wouldn’t be allowed with full contact.

Montgomery County Public Schools teams returned to practice in February. At the beginning of this month, MCPS released a three-game football schedule that would start March 25 and end April 16. But it seemed the schedule would be scrapped.

“When Coach told me there was a good possibility we could play, I got extremely excited,” Bethesda-Chevy Chase senior Patricio Lara Navarrete said during the public hearing period of Friday’s virtual meeting. “And then all of a sudden the county was pulling the plug on us. The roller coaster of emotions was crushing.”

Many Montgomery County football coaches and players protested last week’s decision on social media and attended a rally in Rockville on Sunday. Other Maryland counties, such as Howard and Frederick, are conducting football seasons, but multiple games have been canceled because of coronavirus outbreaks. Prince George’s and Charles counties, meanwhile, are not playing football.

One Montgomery County council member said the council overlooked the importance of sports for high school students last week. The council also voted cheerleading and pompoms can participate in full activity. The council ruled masks are required during competition.

With only a week to prepare with full-contact practices, MCPS switched its football season’s first game to a “scrimmage format,” so teams will play only two official contests. There won’t be a postseason, and spectators are prohibited.

“It may seem to you that missing out on three games is not that much, but the truth is being able to play these three games can represent so much more,” Quince Orchard senior Dante Thompson said in Friday’s meeting. “These three games can help our emotional and social well-being, giving us a sense of purpose. For so many of us, these three games can represent a realization of a lifelong goal and an opportunity for a better future.”

In D.C., conditioning and practices began Thursday. The D.C. State Athletic Association scheduled spring sports competitions to start April 1. However, only some sports can hold full-contact practices and competitions, including baseball, softball, cross-country, track and field, golf and tennis. Football, basketball and lacrosse are a few sports that can perform conditioning but cannot practice or play.

The DCSAA plans to hold championships for baseball, softball, track and field and tennis in June.

“It is essential to the physical, emotional and mental well-being of student-athletes to return to physical activity and athletic competition as soon as it is deemed safe,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said in a statement. “This has been a difficult year for many of our youths, but the opportunity to return to athletics will have a positive impact for so many of our student-athletes.”

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