Naples HS football player focused despite no spectators expected at games

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Naples High School senior AJ Powell. Credit: WINK News.

High school sports stadiums are going to be empty this year in Collier County. Collier County Public Schools doesn’t want spectators at games for safety reasons.

We spoke to a Collier County student-athlete Thursday who just wants to play.

Senior AJ Powell at Naples High School has tossed around the football with his dad for most of his life.

“My favorite part of playing the game, it’s just the work that goes into it and then getting out the results on game day,” Powell said.

Powell hopes the work he’s put in allows him to score a scholarship.

“I want to go to college for it and just take it as far as it’ll go for me, and I just love the game of football and everything it brings me,” Powell said.

But the coronavirus pandemic is rewriting his game plan.

Collier County School Board is tossing around different options for fall sports including, including teams playing only Lee County or Collier schools. Board members are also discussing mask use for coaches and players when they’re not participating, as well as social distancing outside the competition and nobody but essential personnel at practices and competition.

While that would be tough for Powell’s mom, she supports the restrictions.

“I’m not OK. I’ve watched this little guy play since he was you know, 6 years old, right?” Shontra Powell said. “Whatever they can that’s proven to protect the boys first in for most, I think that’s most important.”

But not all parents agree.

“There should be spectators allowed,” Donna Lucarelli said. “I understand that we need to limit it to social distancing and make it safe for both players and spectators, but it’s … just a part of fall sports. It’s important to have spectators in the stands to support our students.”

Practices for volleyball, football, golf. swimming diving and cross country begin Aug. 31. While there will be no spectators at events, the school district plans to stream both football and volleyball games lives.

Amid all the decisions being made for safety and school athletics, Powell is just happy to get back on the field.

“At the end of the day, football is more than just a game it’s just like it’s a way out for some people,” Powell said. “So as long as we get to play, that’s all we can ask for.”

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