New Canaan senior football player David Siegel has been a part of the New Canaan Football family since he first strapped on a red and black helmet in third grade.
Monday morning, Siegel was on Dunning Field lining up the current third grade football team he helps coach prior to a show of support for the “Let Us Play CT!” campaign.
Though the 6-foot-6 Siegel towers over the third graders, even if he isn’t far removed from being among the youth ranks himself.
“Let us play!” New Canaan High School and youth football players, joined by players from Norwalk, McMahon and Ludlowe, with parents in the bleachers, come together at Dunning Stadium to support high school tackle football #cthsfb pic.twitter.com/mQcNZlCSjO
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“This is important because it shows that everyone from the ground up really cares,” said Siegel. “This means a ton to these seniors because we have been playing together since third grade. Just like where these kids are now. We really want to get our final year in. The last couple of days have been very tough but we have been doing everything we can to try and get our season back.”
Youth players of all ages from New Canaan joined the current high school players as well as players from Warde, Ludlowe, Norwalk and McMahon trying to rally support behind allowing teams in Connecticut to play 11-on-11 tackle football.
The CIAC announced Friday that it would not allow teams to play 11-on-11 football this fall in accordance with DPH guidelines.
The is currently no plan in the state to play football in the spring as is being done in neighboring Massachusetts.
That has left football players without a season.
Several hundred masked and socially distanced players stretched between the 30-yard lines with parents of players spaced out in the bleachers.
New Canaan football often talks about the family atmosphere of its program and it was on display with the wide range of ages represented.
Kevin Brown is the president of New Canaan Youth Football and the father of Rams senior quarterback Reid Brown, has been involved with youth football in town since he began playing in the mid-1980s.
“We have seen all the players around the state coming out to support this and we wanted to show that it’s not just the high school players that support this but also the communities,” Brown said. “This is not just the seniors that want this. The New Canaan football community from the top down wants to get these kids back on the field. We just want a shot. It might work, it might not work. We could see a spike in cases and have to shut it down. But to not try is hard for these kids to swallow.”
Brown himself played on the 1994 state championship New Canaan team.
According to Brown, 19 of the current Ram seniors began playing youth football in town in third or fourth grade.
The “Let Us Play CT!” campaign is aiming to convince the CIAC and Department of Public Health to reverse their decision. In addition, parents and players across the state are urging Gov. Ned Lamont to overturn this decision if necessary.
“Connecticut residents have been smart with regard to wearing masks and social distancing,” said State Representative Tom O’Dea who spoke via megaphone to the assembled players Monday. “So much so that our state’s rates of infection and hospitalization are some of the lowest in the country. We have had outdoor sports, including lacrosse, soccer, baseball, hockey and football all summer up and down the east coast without any spikes. The curve is flat. It is undisputed that the flu is more dangerous for teens than COVID. We can protect coaches, referees and teens when playing tackle football. We have been playing youth tackle football for two weeks and we just had our first game yesterday. The kids are enjoying it immensely. If third through eighth graders can safely play tackle football, so can ninth through 12th graders.”
O’Dea has been a volunteer coach in New Canaan Youth Football for years and led the chant of “let us play” during the rally.
An online petition to let high school football play on Change.org has more than 31,000 virtual signatures since Friday.
Brown’s son, Reid, who helps coach the third-grade team along with Siegel and fellow senior Jack Connors, was also organizing youth players in lines Monday.
Brown, who played behind quarterback Drew Pyne last season, just wants a chance to take snaps in real games and have one more season with teammates he considers brothers.
“Many of my teammates have played together since the third grade,” Reid Brown said. “This is our last year to play together and it’s all being ripped away from us.”