HAVERHILL — The threat of being bitten by mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus has put a temporary end to Friday night football under the lights at Trinity Stadium - even when the game is a big one between the Hillies of Haverhill and the Central Catholic Raiders.
Due to a ban on outdoor activities on public property because of the threat, the eagerly-awaited home game of the season against Central Catholic was moved from Friday to 3 p.m. yesterday.
Athletic Director Tom O’Brien said on Friday that he was hoping for a crowd of 2,000 people to attend the game as both teams are ranked in the top 25 (ESPN state rankings) in the state, and both teams won their season openers. The Hillies, led by head coach Tim O’Connor, is ranked 23rd while Central is ranked 15th.
On Aug. 30, Mayor James Fiorentini ordered a ban on outdoor activities from dusk to dawn on public property after West Nile Virus was detected in mosquitoes in two places in the city. The ban includes the stadium, schoolyards and parks and playgrounds and will remain in effect until the first hard frost, city officials said. The mayor ordered targeted spraying by Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control.
The ban forced O’Brien to shift outdoor night games and scrimmages from the stadium to the high school’s athletic fields in the afternoon. The city’s Recreation Department altered its junior football schedule as well.
”The impact hasn’t been too bad so far,” O’Brien said. “We don’t have many Saturday football games planned as we play on Friday nights.”
Other communities in the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire have found mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, but have not revamped their sports schedules.
Last Thursday a horse from Derry tested positive for Eastern Equine Encephalitis, a disease that can cause a serious and sometimes-fatal brain infection. That announcement followed news last Wednesday that a mosquito batch collected in Sandown had tested positive for EEE and a batch collected in Hampstead tested positive for West Nile Virus.