The countdown is on for the start of fall sports at Mission High and Mission Veterans after Mission CISD gave the green light Tuesday to begin holding on-campus practices Sept. 28, the first date allowed by a Hidalgo County health order due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After cautiously and meticulously assessing all data gathered, the decision has been made to take a measured return to in-person athletics by starting with our varsity teams. For parents who choose to allow their children to participate, we would like to assure them that we will be taking appropriate safeguards based upon the standards of the CDC, UIL, the state, and our local officials,” Mission CISD Superintendent Dr. Carol G. Perez said in a Tuesday news release.

Now, in just 11 days, the Eagles and Patriots will finally be back on the cross-country course, the football field, and tennis and volleyball courts.

Mission Veterans football head coach and athletic coordinator David Gilpin said he’s glad to receive a start date and a vote of confidence from Perez and Mission CISD.

“The administration felt with the data that they have, they felt like we could get out and start our fall sports in a safe manner. I’m very appreciative because that shows the confidence that our administration, that our superintendent, that our school board has in coach (Koy) Detmer and his staff over there, and myself and our staff over here,” Gilpin said.

But the start of fall sports in the middle of a pandemic and a year unlike any other requires changes to ensure the safety and health of all parties involved. The most glaring change this football season will be to the “Friday night lights” feel for Mission CISD.

While the Eagles and Patriots football teams will play at Tom Landry Stadium this season, Mission CISD will not allow student groups such as bands, cheerleaders, drill teams, etc., to attend competitions in an attempt to reduce the number of people at events.

Mission CISD also plans to limit attendance at its venues by allowing just two guests per athlete to attend. Spectators or members of guests at Mission CISD venues will be screened before entry, sanitation stations will be provided and social distancing standards and mask requirements will be enforced.

“While I believe all of those parts are a part of Friday night and I’ll miss them, I also understand that the administration has to make decisions that they feel is best for everybody. And if that’s the decision that they made, then that’s the decision that we’ll follow,” Gilpin said. “Every UIL guideline, every CDC guideline, every Mission CISD guideline will be a part of what is the final product when we hit the field on Sept. 28. Everything in our plan will be following protocol to the best of our ability to ensure our players and our coaches are in a healthy and safe environment.”

Mission High and Mission Veterans are set to kickoff their 2020 football seasons with scrimmages the week of Oct. 16, followed by a non-district game during the week of Oct. 23.