High School Football During Late Winter? Massachusetts Coaches Drawing Up New X’s and O’s

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2020/08/20/high-school-football-during-late-winter-massachusetts-coaches-drawing-up-new-xs-and-os/

There won’t be high school football in Massachusetts this fall, but the expectation is that there will be later in the 2020-2021 school year.

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has deemed that what officials view as low-risk sports like cross-country, field hockey, golf, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, and soccer are safe enough to play during the fall. Their seasons are expected to start on September 18 and run through November 20.

The MIAA COVID-19 task force reportedly voted to create four sports seasons this school year, with football, cheerleading, and unified basketball being played from February 22 to April 25. This means that the spring sports season will run longer than usual, likely going from April 26 to July 3. The current plan does not feature any state championship games in any season given the time constraints. 

New Boston Post spoke with a few people involved with high school football about the season to get their perspectives on the issue.

Middleborough High School varsity head football coach Pat Kingman told New Boston Post that he is happy the kids may have an opportunity to play football — but he acknowledged that it will be tough.

“It’s great that we’re gonna have a season, but there’s a lot that has to be answered,” Kingman said. “Where will my 75 kids get changed? If you give them equipment, who is responsible for it? Will they bring it home and clean it every day or will we spray it down here? The practice part is very simple. I think we’re able to make adjustments there, but it’s all the other stuff. I think there’s a lot of dot your I’s and cross your T’s that people haven’t thought about.”

Kingman said the priority during the season has to be keeping the players, coaches, and officials safe. He also said that everyone will have to be honest about if he’s feeling sick rather than trying to play through it, which could hurt other people.

“The easy part is using the 280 characters to say the kids should play,” Kingman said, referring to Twitter. “The hard part is the logistics behind it to get it done.”

“We all want to play,” he continued. “We all want to coach. If everything goes through, we’re gonna be able to practice a bit in the fall. I wouldn’t do it every single day, but I think we need to be able to see our kids at some point and get out there.”

Bristol-Plymouth Regional Vocational Technical High School head freshman football coach Dominic Damiano told New Boston Post that he is looking forward to the season, and is ready to combat the challenges that come with it.

“I’m looking forward to spring football,” Damiano said during a sit-down interview earlier this week. “I didn’t see it starting on September 18. The bad part is the kids won’t get to know each other right away, so we might lose a competitive edge. As long as they come up with a structure that’s fundamentally safe, we should be fine with these kids.”

Damiano said his team, whose school is in Taunton, is different from most in a couple of ways. It’s a vocational school so the kids are from various towns and most of them do not know each other growing up. However, football season starts before the school year, so normally the kids on the team would meet each other before they meet other kids at school — creating a stronger bond. Additionally, the kids who played youth football played under various systems, but many of the kids on the freshman team each year have never played football before, meaning that Damiano and his assistant coach have to teach them how to play the game.

That said, he said his practices require more hands-on instruction than most — which isn’t as feasible during a pandemic.

“That won’t change,” said Damiano, who also covers varsity high school football on his WARA AM-1320 radio show Four Deep Sports Talk. “Freshman football is freshman football. You have to take the bad habits away that they learn at the youth level and make them understand that there’s a 220-pound kid that wants to knock them over that’s 14 years old, too. Basically, we need to start from scratch.”

Whitman-Hanson Regional High School athletic director Bob Rodgers said it will be difficult to put together a new high school football season for Massachusetts, and that it requires many people working together to keep everyone safe.

“A lot of people have been working very hard to try to find a safe way to offer football,” Rodgers told New Boston Post in an email message. “It’s a very complex issue but I have faith that there is a lot of dialogue which will help us find the best solution possible.”