The FCIAC on Wednesday became the latest league to adopt a 7-on-7 replacement for full-contact football this fall, even as some of its players continue to pursue an independent chance to play 11-on-11 this fall. The SCC could follow, joining the ECC.
Meanwhile, CIAC associate executive director Gregg Simon said the organization has received proposals to make up an 11-on-11 football season, or in fact a season for any other pandemic-disrupted fall sport, in the second semester.
FCIAC athletic directors on Wednesday approved a plan from Ridgefield AD Dane Street, with teams competing in strength challenges and 7-on-7 games.
The FCIAC plan says its schools are on board except for Bridgeport Central and invites non-members Fairfield Prep, Wright Tech and former members Bassick and Harding to take part as geographic fits. League commissioner Dave Schulz was optimistic that at least a couple of them would. Emails to administrators of those schools were not immediately returned Wednesday.
“I’m kind of excited for it, to give the kids something. It’s not football, but it gives them competition,” Schulz said. “They can still learn stuff. If (a season happens later), then they’ll be more prepared for it.”
Bridgeport was among the first municipalities to shut down the idea of 11-on-11 football, in mid-August, though Bassick and Harding resumed conditioning a little over a week ago.
The CIAC canceled full-contact football for this fall on Sept. 4 after the state’s Department of Public Health said it wouldn’t recommend playing the sport in the COVID-19 pandemic. It reaffirmed that cancellation on Sept. 16 after alterations to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus didn’t win over DPH.
Simon said the CIAC football committee then met to look at low- to moderate-risk activity that would still engage players. They got the ECC’s and Ridgefield’s plans.
“We took them all and put them into one document we sent to (athletic directors),” Simon said. “We gave them all kinds of activities to do, 7-on-7, strongman competition, all different things.
“We’re trying to create an environment for football kids where they can do a lot of football activities and stay together.”
There is nothing firm yet on a possible spring football season — or, as Simon insisted, since the CIAC does not want such a season to disrupt the usual spring sports, a “second-semester season” — but Simon did say the CIAC “has received multiple proposals for the creation of a second-semester season to accommodate any fall sport that was unable to play or didn’t finish a large portion of its season.”
None of these 7-on-7 leagues, Schulz and Simon said, preclude players or coaches from taking part in any independent 11-on-11 football games this fall.
“This league is for whatever kids want to do this 7-on-7,” Schulz said.
The ECC adopted its 7-on-7 plan earlier this week. The SCC may be poised to join them as soon as Thursday night, when its football committee meets. An early SCC proposal included the use of flags for one-hand touch, 20-minute running quarters and linemen challenges at the beginning of each quarter. The proposal also included screening and temperature checks for all participants.
The 7-on-7 game is designed as a passing game, with no interior linemen, no blocking and usually one-hand touch to put down the ball carrier. Strength challenges may include lifts and throws, a sled push and sandbag carries.
Several coaches reached Wednesday said their teams’ plans, or hopes at least, for independent 11-on-11 were still to be determined. One coach whose players are pursuing an independent season said he wouldn’t be involved.
The Record-Journal reported that Meriden’s two high schools, Maloney and Platt, are pursuing independent football using school equipment and coaching staffs, with the city Board of Education’s approval. That would solve a couple of the issues facing most interested teams, but another big one, approval from the city to play there, remains. Meriden shut down its youth program last week after two players tested positive for COVID-19.
Fairfield County teams have tried to partner with a local youth league to play. The Connecticut High School Independent Football League is assembling teams that want to play. Several GoFundMe pages have sprung up seeking support for teams and leagues; the CHSIFL’s raised $680 over its first three days, while team sites for players from Amity, Fairfield Ludlowe, Gilbert/Northwestern and another team from the state’s northwest corner had varying degrees of donations.
There’s also the Yankee Independent Football League, headed up by eight-time state championship coach Jack Cochran.
Cochran has spoken with the New Britain Parks and Recreation Department about securing Veterans Stadium for a potential 8-10-week season. He said he needs six or seven more teams than he has in order to meet expenses, and there are several other logistical obstacles.
“We have time, but it’s almost now or never,” Cochran said.
“I don’t want to undermine coaches and start to recruit kids to play. I’m just saying here’s what I got. The thing is to overcome costs and figure out a way to get teams together.”
Tolland’s first-year coach, Mitchell Egezarian, tweeted Wednesday that his team “will not be participating in any football activities this fall, per a district decision.”
The 2020 Tolland High School Eagles will not be participating in any football activities this fall, per a district decision. Hopefully there is a chance in the spring to show this team’s ability and honor our seniors. This program will come back stronger and smarter. #WeFly
— Coach Egazarian (@CoachEgazarian) September 23, 2020
All indications, Schulz and Simon said, are that other sports have fared well as they moved into full-team practices this week. Teams in other sports had been practicing in cohorts of no more than 10 before Monday.