Sandpoint Bulldogs will play on brand new football field tonight, with limited fans

Sandpoint high school's brand new War Memorial Field
Picture courtesy of Susie Puckett

SANDPOINT, Idaho – Friday Night Lights will turn on across the state of Idaho for high school football tonight.

“The buzz in town this week is amazing,” Sandpoint athletic director Kris Knowles can’t compare the start of this season to any other.

The potential spread of COVID-19 in high school sports is something every state worried about, many have pushed this football season to the spring because of how much contact is involved. But in North Idaho, nine different games are set for Friday night, and there will be fans.

Masks will not be required, they are more of an ‘expectation,’ as Knowles says. That is the word of choice at the high school.

2020 was supposed to start with a Bulldog home opener for the books, as they unveil a beautiful new facility complete with fresh turf.

“In a normal season, with a new field and new turf and the excitement about a new facility, we’d expect anywhere from three to four thousand fans. But the revenue expectation is now much lower than that.”

Knowles says because the new facility is owned by the city of Sandpoint, they have to adhere to more restrictions on attendance. 450 fans are allowed on the home side, 200 on the visitor side. 650 tickets sold compared to three to four thousand is quite a difference.

Post Falls head coach Blaine Bennett said they’ll have 65 players total to face the Bulldogs tonight, and we know earlier this week the local health district said each player can give out two tickets.

Since Sandpoint is hosting the game, Knowles made sure player’s families were taken care of first.

“We know it’s hard that we can’t let everyone in, and we understand why, we get that. But we are making sure players’ family members will be there, so all of them get to see. We’ll also be live-streaming the game, so that helps.”

Knowles was also frank about receiving a little blowback from the community and beyond.

“A lot of people have told us what we ‘should’ do. ‘Why in the heck are you playing football?’ But we are doing what we’ve been told by the IHSAA, by the health district, that we can move forward.”

Every athletic director Knowles has ever met, got into the business to make a positive difference in the lives of young athletes. There are risks to playing a football season. But the last few weeks of practice have been so encouraging to Knowles in how serious players, coaches and staff have taken health measures that he is confident they’ll play a full season.

“The fact that every kid in Sandpoint who wants to play football, gets to to play football is something special to us.”

Sandpoint hosts the Post Falls Trojans in an Inland Empire 4A/5A clash at 7 p.m. Catch the highlights from this game and what the scene looks like at several other high school games in North Idaho on 4 News Now Nightside.