WEST HARTFORD, September 6, 2020 – A few hundred Connecticut high school football players, parents, some coaches, trainers and school officials gathered in West Hartford on Sunday to voice support for playing full contact football this fall.
Based upon guidance from the state Department of Health that playing football would be too risky during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) said on Friday that there would be no season this fall.
Participants in the rally pleaded for a chance to play this fall. Or this spring. Or any time in the coming school year. “I don’t care. We just play to play some sort of football. We want to have our season,” said Brady Hutchinson, a senior captain from defending state champion St. Joseph in Trumbull.
Players from more than 30 schools from across the state attended the rally including players from Avon, Farmington, Simsbury and Lewis Mills – where the seed for this rally was planted a few days ago. Players and parents from Mills, Avon, Farmington, Torrington and Winsted got together to discuss how to save the season and the rally was one of the ideas. Word spread quickly through social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“For a lot of us, this is last season we will ever have. It’s not fair to take it away from us so we can’t leave everything out on the field for one last time,” Avon’s Owen Folkwein said.
“We just want a chance to start and play,” said Sean Polinsky, one of five co-captains from Lewis Mills, which led the march through Blueback Square and to the steps of West Hartford Town Hall where there was a 30-minute rally for saving the season. “Other states have been given the chance and we haven’t. It if becomes unreasonsable (with significant increases in COVID infection) later, we understand. But we want the opportunity to try.”
Massachusetts and Rhode Island won’t be playing football this fall. They’ve delayed it to the spring. New Hampshire is planning to play this fall while Maine is currently reevaluating their decision to play this fall.
Several players cited the football in several states already, including Utah where stadium capacity is limited to 25 percent and fans attending games must wear masks and be spaced out in the bleachers. The Salt Lake Tribune reported Sunday night that there were 2,806 new cases in the state last week with a percentage of positive tests at 9.5 percent. The paper reported that COVID cases have begun to trend upward since late August.
Players said they were open to wearing masks and/or face shields to keep the game safe to play.
It was a passionate rally.
“This is everything (to us),” Hutchinson said. “Look around here at the parents, coaches, players and trainers. They are all here. My brothers behind me are going to fight to the end. It hurts so bad they’re trying to take this away from us.”
Mike Drury, the head coach at Southington High, questioned why lacrosse, ice hockey and indoor basketball tournaments were allowed to be held this summer and football won’t be allowed this fall. Similar to football, these sports were classified as high risk sports when the Lamont administration released their Re-Open Connecticut plan in June.
He spoke to the players on the steps of the Town Hall. “We have to continue to fight and don’t give up,” he said passionately. “Do not give up families. I implore you. Communicate with your (elected) representatives. Communicate to the governor (Ned Lamont) and the (state) Department of Health and get answers to our questions because these guys deserve a season.”
Marty Lisevick, the athletic director at Staples in Westport for the last 20 years, urged parents to contact their elected representatives. “Every parent here contact your politicians. Every parent here, contact the governor. Every parent here, contact the Department of Public Health,” he said. “If you do that, you will force Gov. Lamont to hold a meeting between the Department of Health, between the CIAC and maybe some superintendents, maybe some coaches and maybe some players. One meeting and it could be solved this week.”
Lisevick coached varsity soccer and softball at Simsbury High along with girls basketball at Avon before heading to Staples two decades ago.
Former Avon High head coach Jim Caouette, now an assistant coach at Holy Cross in Waterbury, spoke to the assembled players at Town Hall in the same high-energy manner he deployed during his three-year tenure with the Falcons in the early 2010s. “We all have to be heard,” he said. “You’ve worked too hard. Your parents have worked too hard for you to be given the opportunity play.”
Another rally is scheduled to be held on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the state capitol in Hartford.
“This has been an emotional roller coaster,” Avon High senior Nick Amatulli said. “We’ve followed all of these protocols to the best of our ability. Other states are playing football. If other states can do it, we should too.
“I would give anything to get on the field one more time with my boys,” he said.