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High school football returns to Northeast Ohio: Coaches, teams excited to have fans back

The OHSAA announced fans can return to games, citing the state department of health's guidelines.

LAKEWOOD, Ohio — As summer winds down and students head back to class, it's also time for high school football to get back on the field.

After a year of canceled and postponed games, Friday is set to be an exciting night in Northeast Ohio, with fans finally back in the stands. The sounds of whistles and pads on the field will be echoing through the air across high school stadiums.

"In Ohio, football's pretty important," legendary St. Ignatius head coach Chuck Kyle said. "It's so exciting for the kids."

RELATED: More high school sports coverage from 3News

Lakewood head coach Tom Thom told 3News he and his team know why this season means so much more, reflecting on last season.

"John Marshall [High School] didn't get to play last year at all, so it's going to be their first game in a full year," Thom said of the Rangers' opening game. "We learned that last year. We have got to be appreciative for everyday that we get a chance to go out here and play."

With attendance limited to just family and close friends in 2020, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced fans can return to games this year, citing the state department of health's guidelines. Officials are also encouraging teams to use caution and remain mindful of potential COVID-19 outbreaks.

That hasn't been enough for some teams, as two high schools near Cincinnati canceled their whole seasons again due to the COVID-19 concerns. Kyle says keeping kids safe is part of every move his staff makes.

"I think you're getting a lot more awareness and being conscientious on how to stay away from the COVID problem," he explained. "The kids are aware: This is a gift this year."

Still, Kyle and Thom both told 3News they recognized a day-by-day situation, especially at kids get back into the classroom next week.