GREENWICH — Cardinal Stadium on a Friday night in the fall is typically reserved for traditional, 11-on-11 tackle football, but Friday, 7-on-7 non-contact, late-afternoon football was played instead in this atypical season.
And though the game was held in an extremely different format, the spirit on both the Greenwich and visiting Stamford squad were high.
“We would rather be playing tackle football, but I’m glad the league was able to put something else in place for us, so that the kids can have something to do,” Stamford coach Jamar Greene said. “We told the kids to come out here and have fun. We’re going to make some mistakes. But if everyone does what you’re supposed to do and encourages each other to go ahead and compete, then we can be successful.”
The FCIAC adopted a 7-on-7 league as a replacement for 11-on-11 full contact football this fall, which was canceled, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CIAC announced plans for an alternate season in the spring, which includes 11-on-11 tackle football. Until all the details off a possible alternate spring season are organized, football players clamoring to get on the field, are accepting the 7-on-7 passing game aspect.
Stamford’s spirits were especially high on Friday, as it came back to edge Greenwich, 22-19.
“It felt really good to get out there, because during the offseason, we didn’t know if we were going to play or not,” Stamford senior wide receiver Daniel Simms said. “We just kept working as a team though and coach kept pushing us. It feels great to be on the field working with the guys.”
Usually popular during the summer, 7-on-7 non-contact football is fast-paced and in the FCIAC the games are played in running time.
“I’m happy to be out here with these guys in any type of competition,” Cardinals coach Anthony Morello said. “Ultimately, we are not out here to win or lose right now. We’re out here to prepare ourselves for 11-on-11 football. Today was an eye-opener for our seniors who are returning as starters. Things don’t just get handed to you around here, you have to earn it.”
Trailing 19-13, Stamford scored the winning touchdown with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Black Knights senior quarterback Cameron Cahoon threw a touchdown pass of more than 50 yards to Simms for the go-ahead score.
“Playing in this 7-on-7 league does mean a lot to us,” Cahoon said. “We were obviously hoping to put pads on this season, but we’re taking what they give us and we are looking to come out and compete every day.”
Cahoon said 7-on-7 football helps the offense gain its rhythm.
“The offense – a lot of things worked, a lot of things didn’t for us,” Cahoon said. “For the most part, we were successful on the offensive side of the ball. With 7-on-7, we could see the defense without the pressure coming and we could see our matchups, which is good if we ever put the pads on in the spring.”
A limited number of fans were at the game, which saw the Cardinals cheerleaders cheer on the squad. Junior Nyshawn Johnson scored Stamford’s first touchdown with a reception from Cahoon, and Simms returned an interception for a score.
Black Knights senior Alain Paul also had several receptions.
“It means a lot to us, obviously COVID messed us up, so it’s great to be back on the football field,” Paul said. We never gave up, we kept practicing and it’s nice to be out here with everyone.”
Paul sees plenty of competitiveness in 7-on-7.
“I like it, all our skill players just get out there and go,” Paul said. “I just want to keep up the same intensity for all of us until we go to11-on-11 tackle football.”
Senior Princeton University-bound A.J. Barber caught a scoring strike from James Rinello from more than 50 yards; his brother Chason, a junior, hauled in a touchdown pass and senior Mason Muir caught a TD pass from senior Cage Lasley.
“It is a great opportunity to get out there and play some football, though there are some aspects that are different,” said Lasley, who hinted that he missed the contact of traditional football. “There are no broken tackles that result in big plays and there’s no big hits that light up a sideline. But this was an opportunity for both teams to get together and come together as a community.”
Offensive and defensive linemen were also missed by all on Friday.
“As a quarterback, we love our linemen, they are the heart and soul of the team,” Lasley said. “It’s tough not having them out there with us. We just want to be able to play 11-on-11 soon.”
Both the Black Knights and Cardinals will return to 7-on-7 action next week.
“Clearly we were kind of rusty and we need to get used to the tempo,” Muir said. Tempo is a big thing we need to work on. If we get the tempo to work then we’ll start getting more passes and more completions. We need to incorporate the best possible plays we have to optimize our potential.”
Said Morello: “We clearly have some learning to do from a 7-on-7 perspective, but we’ll correct it for next week. We were just happy to be out there competing today.”
Greene noted the 7-on-7 season can be a confidence-booster for his squad going forward.
“We competed with them, I know it’s only 7-on-7, but for today, we are going to enjoy it and hopefully if there is a spring season we can build on it.”