VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Leading up to Thursday, the anticipation was so high even the blades of grass were trembling with excitement.
For the first time in more than a year, high school football fields were safely filled with players and coaches.
High schools across the state were given the green light to start practicing for the fall season, but not everyone in Hampton Roads jumped at the opportunity.
"We've been bugging the administrators, 'Hey when can we go back? When can we go back?' But we want to do it safely. We don't want anything to happen to anybody," said head football coach at Ocean Lakes High School, Joe Jones.
With guidance from the school board, high schools in Virginia Beach, like Ocean Lakes, won't lace up until Monday. The same goes for Norfolk and teams on the Peninsula, like Poquoson High School.
"We had to figure out what worked best for us here at Poquoson High School, and we felt like we could manage starting Monday. We kind of learned in the winter that there's no reason to rush to nowhere," said Activities Director Kenneth Bennett.
Bennett said a lot of the football players play other sports during the winter, so they need time to rest. It also provides a few extra days for the athletics department to prepare.
"We think we have a pretty good plan: Bringing our players in in groups so there are very few [kids] in the locker room at a time. They'll stagger onto the practice facility in groups and move to different areas in the field in football," Bennett said, adding the team likely won't practice in full pads until at least the second week.
He said all students will have to wear masks when not actively playing, which is standard guidance across the board.
"We set out with two goals: That's compete if we can and then compete as long as we can," Bennett said.
While school districts like Newport News haven't made a decision on fall sports yet, Coach Jones said his Dolphins are ready.
"I'm just looking forward to getting out and coaching these guys - you know, coaching them up to be as good as they can be individually and how they work together as a team," Jones said. "They've heard it one million times: 'Nothing positive comes out of being negative unless it's a COVID-19 test.'"