CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Restrictions are loosening at high school stadiums statewide starting this week.

Previously, participants were allowed to invite only two fans to the game. Now, close to 1,000 will be allowed inside stadiums. Marching bands, too, will make a triumphant return. 

Students say the season is starting to feel more and more like normal, though educators and health officials still urge caution for those heading out to enjoy the Friday night lights. Mitigation practices are still being used: masks are required, social distancing is in effect and stadium capacities are still at a fraction of full.

“I miss the old ways, you know? This is fun but … even like having the masks and stuff make it difficult to get through a day,” Kenowa Hills High School senior Benjamin Adloff said. “It’ll just be huge though, having that extra support and just the extra sound from the crowd.”

He’ll be busy Friday: He plays both sides of the ball and is also a drum line major.

“It will be a bit exhausting for sure,” he said. “But this is what you live for. I’ve been training for three years to do this. I mean, our first home game normally the drum line walks us over and even not having that was so much harder to get ready for the game.”

He, like so many, has had to learn to adapt to a constantly changing environment. 

Cedar Springs Public Schools Superintendent Scott Smith said the loosened restrictions bring about new opportunities for students eager for change.

“Every day’s a gift. Every opportunity’s a gift and we can’t squander that,” Smith said. “It’s just another great opportunity to celebrate. Music is an incredible part of life. To have our marching band be able to be a part of this field and to be a part of the event is just an incredible enhancement of the overall experience. It brings life to the event. At the end of the day, it’s about providing our students with an outstanding experience.”

Cedar Springs is allowing 1,000 fans to fill the stands for its homecoming game Friday against South Christian. 

“There’s never enough, but I think they’ve come up with a strategic plan to maximize the participation,” Smith said. “Our athletic department is really student focused and athlete focused, and so they first determined that it was most appropriate to provide the greatest allotment of tickets per participant to our athletes, then we looked at our band.”

Expanding the in-person opportunities by selling tickets online opened up chances for more family members and students to see the game. 

“I’m really excited for my grandparents to see the game,” Adloff said. “The season is already more than halfway over, I’m glad they will be able to see us play safely.”

Kenwowa Hills High School principal and close friend to Smith, Nathan Robrahn, says he’s excited for “his kids” — his students — to have a chance to feel like kids once again. 

“They’ve been so great through all of this,” Robrahn said. “Sometimes we think it’s math or it’s English or that kind of stuff that these kids take away from high school, but it’s really … those homecoming games, it’s the band playing on Friday night. Those are the pieces that kids were missing and that’s been difficult.”

Still, schools have strict safety measures still in place to ensure the remainder of the season can be played out. 

“Certainly they’ll always remember the pandemic,” Robrahn said. “But what are the positive things that they took away from this? I really hope it’s that the adults tried to do their best to make this as normal as possible for them given the situation we’ve been in.”

Kenowa Hills will host Grand Rapids Catholic Central Friday night.