On Monday, March 8, the sounds of football practice will be in the air at local high schools for the first time since late 2019.
COVID-19 caused the cancellation of high-risk fall sports such as football. A temporary Fall II season was proposed for March and April.
“We are starting March 8,” said Clinton athletic director Mike King of football practice. “We are tentatively looking at games the weekend of March 27.”
Before games can be played, teams need 10 practices.
Clinton is a member of the Center State Conference, and members have some plans in place and other details to be worked out.
One complication is travel. So conference members have divided up by school size and county to make a schedule.
“We’re trying for five,” said Westmoreland athletic director Mike Adey of the number of games to be played. Westmoreland has been combining with Oriskany to form one unified team in recent years, and that’s still the plan for the Fall II season, Adey said.
King said the schedule will likely be a five-week span from the weekend of March 27 to the weekend of April 24. There could be a sixth game for some schools, he noted.
Clinton and Westmoreland are in a group with Sauquoit Valley, Notre Dame and Waterville. Adirondack is still determining its status for the Fall II season, but would be in the group if football is played there. Sherburne-Earlville is in Chenango County, but as the only Center State school in that county, it is trying to get games against this group, King said.
Adey noted that the scheduling might reflect the weather, as snow could cause havoc with grass fields. “It’s going to be tough to play this time of year on fields that aren’t turf.” Some members of the group — Sauquoit, Waterville and Adirondack — have turf fields, and would likely host the majority of early season games if grass fields aren’t ready yet.
King said players might have to wear masks under helmets. Adey said he’s not sure the status of the aspect of the season.
Will fans be allowed at games? “We’re hoping for that,” Adey said, noting that the conference hasn’t spent much time on this yet topic yet. He said he’s hopeful schools will be able to accommodate at least two fans per athlete. King said that compared to winter sports, football spectators are “more likely because it’s outdoors.”
Clinton’s safety protocols have been evolving and improving, King noted, and the school will be doing “the same as what we’ve done for the winter, applying them to football.” There will be, he noted, more equipment to sanitize and keep stored, compared to winter sports. As for COVID rates in Clinton, “It’s been trending in the correct direction.”
Westmoreland, said Adey, is prepared. The coaching staff has been meeting about all aspects of the season. “Whenever they say it’s time to go, we’ll be ready.”
Holland Patent’s schedule will look a lot different than in past years. They’re set to open against Camden then play Canastota, Rome Free Academy, Whitesboro and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill. Because the Golden Knights have a grass field that will not be fit for games in the spring, HP will play their home games at Whitesboro, said head coach Brian Briggs.
“We’re excited to be playing football,” Briggs said.
The team will practice in pods, keeping players spaced out. He’s already ordered gaiters for each player. “We’re going to do the best we can.”