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Tough day for football players as CIAC cancels football this fall – The Collinsville Press
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Tough day for football players as CIAC cancels football this fall

Led by captains from Lewis Mills, players from across Connecticut rallied in West Hartford earlier this month to save the high school football season.

There will be no scholastic football this fall at high schools around Connecticut due to the contagious COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC)’s Board of Control reaffirmed a decision made earlier this month to cancel full contact football for the 2020-21 school year. The decision aligns with the recommendation from the Connecticut Department of Health that football is a high-risk sport and should not be played this fall.

The Board of Control did offer a little hope for competition this year by saying it would consider football in the spring as long as it doesn’t negatively impact spring sports.

New Hampshire is the only New England school that currently plans to play high school football this fall. Football has been postponed in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine with the hope of playing this spring. Vermont plans to play a 7-on-7 version of football this fall. New York moved football to next spring while New Jersey will try to play football this fall.

“CIAC made every effort to weigh all factors in this decision, including the passionate voices of students, parents, and school personnel,” said Glenn Lungarini, Executive Director of the CIAC. “Ultimately, (the CIAC) made the determination to align its decision with the recommendations of the governor’s office and Department of Public Health to not hold high-risk sports at this time.”

Football is the only sport listed in the state of Connecticut’s re-opening guidelines as a high-risk sport. Girls volleyball was considered as high-risk sport by the Dept. of Health because it was played indoors but the CIAC will have players wearing masks so it will be allowed.

Soccer and field hockey are considered moderate risk sports in the re-opening guidelines while cross country and individual swimming events are considered low risk sports. Teams have been practicing co-horts groups or less. The CIAC will decide on Friday if teams will be allowed to hold full practices on Sept. 21.

It’s a tough day for football players, though.

“For a 16-year-old, 17-year-old, 18-year-old kid, this is dramatic especially when they have poured their heart and soul into something they have crafted,” Avon High football coach Jeff Redman said.

Redman talked about current seniors on his Avon High team that struggled on the field as sophomores as they learned the sport. Those players got better as juniors and the team was much more competitive in 2019 than in the previous year. The Falcons worked hard to prepare for this season, especially in the weight room.

“They committed to training their bodies because they wanted to excel. They got good grades,” he said. “Now, was that effort wasted? They learned discipline. They stuck with the discipline. They behaviors they have exhibited will add to their character and their overall wellbeing.”

Redman, who was entering his third season behind the bench for the Falcons, said he will continue to hold practice but they were a long way from being ready to play 11-on-11 football.

“We were doing the best we could with the football we were allowed to do,” he said. “Football is about blocking and tackling. Those are fundamental skills. At some point, we would have to be allowed to teach those skills. Without those skills, someone could get hurt.”

Players were not allowed to touch each other. So, there has been no hitting or contact in practices thus far.

Avon High football coach Jeff Redman at last year’s season-opening game against Bloomfield.

Redman would be interested in playing football in the spring – as long as it didn’t significantly impact the ability of his players to play other sports.

“The kids have been positive (in practice),” he said. “They do appreciate every day. We don’t know if will be here tomorrow (perhaps due to school being cancelled due to a positive COVID-19 test).

“This sport teaches you to never quit,” Redman said. “The players said we will continue to fight. We’ll fight respectfully and we will do things the right way – not the wrong way.”

Players from Avon helped coordinate two rallies to support playing football in Connecticut this fall. One rally in Hartford at the state capitol drew an estimated 1,200 players, parents and football supporters from around the state.

But the COVID-19 coronavirus may leave the Falcon football team on the sideline as it did Avon High teams in the spring. Avon has played varsity football each year since 1960, two years after the school opened for the first time.

“Remember what you learn in the game will carry you in life,” Redman said. “You learn to work with people. You learn to be positive through tough times. You learn to form really, meaningful relationships. These are (skills) you can use throughout your life.”

This will be the first fall without football at Simsbury High since 1945 when the Trojans took off four seasons for World War II. The last time Farmington missed a season was in 1929. The Indians reformed their varsity team in 1930.

Compared to Farmington and Simsbury, Lewis Mills and Granby/Canton are new programs – each with just 10 seasons under their belts. Granby/Canton were set to begin the second year of a co-op program.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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