Coaches holding out hope for alternative high school football season
Senior year is the year every high school athlete looks forward to the most. That's their year. They're the top dog. And it's their last with their team.
This year's football season was going to be extra special for East Lyme.
"This was probably my first or second group where I don't have one kid that's going to play college football," the ninth-year Vikings head coach Rudy Bagos said. "This is it for them."
Those seniors didn't get a season during the fall. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference canceled full contact, 11-on-11 football at the urging of the Connecticut Department of Health.
The CIAC Board of Control did, however, leave the door open for spring football provided it didn't negatively affect spring sports.
State high school football players, coaches, parents and fans must still wait to find out whether or not they'll be spring football.
"My kids were crushed (to not play in the fall)," Bagos said. "I'm champing at the bit (to play this spring). I'd love them to play, but really, for the most part, I want my seniors to get a chance to play because, like I said, nobody is getting a scholarship.
"They talk about, when I see them, how they missed that Thanksgiving game (against rival Waterford). They missed out on having their parents walk out with them for Senior Night. They missed out on a lot. If we could somehow get them a season, I'd be ecstatic for them."
Fifth-year Waterford head coach John Strecker said, "I had seniors who were really looking forward to their senior year. I would love to see them get on the field."
The Board of Control established dates in September for an "alternative" football season. Conditioning would begin Feb. 22-26 followed by scrimmages and a six-game regular season from March 19-April 17.
The Board also, at that time, voted to start the winter season on Dec. 7 with state tournaments running until Feb. 21.
The CIAC postponed the start of winter sports. Connecticut governor Ned Lamont said Monday that youth sports could begin practices on Jan. 19 and start competitions on Feb. 1.
The CIAC's latest proposal for winter sports features state tournaments in basketball, gymnastics, hockey and boys' swimming that would be held from March 8-21.
"I'd like to say I'm 50-50 (that there'll be a season), but I don't think I am," Bagos said. "I tell the kids let's see how the winter sports go and we'll go from there. That's kind of my gauge. ... If we start (winter sports) on time on the 19th, then I'd be more than 50-50 positive that we're going to play. … Fingers crossed.
"I just wish we (played) the (fall) season, and if there was a (COVID) case, then the game's canceled. See you in two weeks. That would've been the best case scenario I thought. I'm glad I'm not getting paid the big bucks to make these decisions."
The 2020 season was going to be an important one for Bacon Academy as it would've been its first under new head coach Mark Farnsworth. Instead, Eastern Connecticut Conference teams had to settle for an 7-on-7 passing with quarterbacks, receivers and running backs and no tackling. There were also strength-based competitions for the other positions.
"It's certainly a good opportunity to be with the kids for a longer period of time and start to build relationships and I could put schemes in and things like that," Farnsworth said. "(A time) for us to learn about each other and to really talk about how we wanted to have things happen as we move forward, so it was valuable in that respect."
"Was it what I wanted?," Farnsworth chuckled. "No."
Strecker, who coached Waterford to its first CIAC playoff win in 2019, said, "The one thing about it was we had a lot of younger guys come out, skill guys, so we saw a lot of guys for the first time, these freshmen and sophomores. They're good athletes and they had a lot of fun and we taught them a lot of football.
"You ask any coach the two most important things in football, they'll say it's blocking and tackling, and there was none of that."
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