After months of back and forth, starts and stops, and an agonizingly prolonged wait for a final decision regarding high school football, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) announced last Wednesday that the controversial sport will not be played this year.
Wednesday’s decision came as another gut punch to the players and coaches.
The CIAC did leave the door open for a potential football season later in school year, possibly during the spring sports season.
“CIAC made every effort to weigh all factors in this decision, including the passionate voices of students, parents, and school personnel, and ultimately made the determination to align its decision with the recommendations of the Governor’s office and DPH to not hold high-risk sports at this time,” CAS-CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini stated, “In conversation with other state associations across the country, it was clear that a key factor in playing interscholastic football was alignment with the opinion of their state’s governor and state health agency.”
As part of the announcement, the CIAC said it will not interfere with any schools or districts that choose to Club football. This muddies the waters even more and leaves coaches and players scrambling in order to put together a season this fall.
The issue with proceeding with fall football was that the Department of Health had categorized football as fall’s only “high risk” sport and would not change that classification despite efforts from the CIAC to put additional policies and procedures in place to make the game safer in regards to COVID-19.
The question asked many times to the DPH is what factors would have to occur to potentially lower the risk factor of football, including vaccines, studies from other states, and time frames.
Despite multiple attempts to get an answer, the DPH has not responded.
Leaving the question, what will or could change this fall with the anticipated return of basketball, ice hockey, and wrestling in the winter?
So for now football is dormant, however all other fall sports are getting ready for competitive action starting in early October.
Here are a few things to watch for as high school sports returns to action.
Cromwell boys are coming off a runner-up finish in the Class SS 2019 Cross Country championships. The Panthers top four finishers, Mark Rodriguez (3rd overall), Connor Daly (7th), Felipe Patinha (14th), and Mike Zocco (20th), were all juniors a season ago and are expected back.
Rocky Hill girls finished third overall in Class SS. The Terriers are losing Elizabeth Stockman, who set numerous records during her time at RHHS, but high performers Maren Valente, Mariaisabel Corcoran, Audrey-Lillian Grant, and Michaela Creevy are expected back. The Terriers have a home meet scheduled with Middletown on Thursday, Oct 1 at Elm Ridge Park.
Wethersfield won 16 games a season ago, including a postseason victory, marking a second consecutive tournament appearance. 2019 All-Conference players Kate Anzidei, Molly Bowers, Emily Messina, and Lorien Touponse will be returning to a team filled with experience. The Eagles open the season at home against rival Newington on Thursday, Oct 1 at Cottone Field and will use the opener to recognize the seniors.
Cromwell boys advanced to the Class S semifinal before losing a heartbreaker in double overtime. The Panthers are losing goal-scoring machine Anthony Caracoglia, but goalie James Grodzicki along with standouts Zach Randazzo and Mason Fox are expected back. The team begins the year with a pair of road games, starting Thursday, Oct 1 at North Branford.
Newington girls won 15 games in 2019, including a tournament game. The Indians enter 2020 loaded with leading scorer Olivia Mullings and fellow all-conference teammates Emily Chojnicki, Alyse Karanian, Alexie Armour, Giuliana Stolfi, and Karissa Zocco expected to be back. The Indians start the season on the road at Berlin on Thursday, Oct 1 and welcome Wethersfield to NHS for a home opener on Saturday, Oct 3.
Newington won 15 games a season ago and looks to build off that success. All conference players Sara Caceres, Erika Paradis, and Amaia Jackson graduated but all-conference Madison Massaro-Cook, who led the team in kills, and Emilia Dugas are expected to return. The Indians will start on the road at Platt on Thursday, Oct 1.
Wethersfield is perennial conference champions and always make waves in the state championships, including a fourth place showing in the 2019 Class L finals. The Eagles again are in great position to win another conference title, led by captains Haley Krawczyk, Libby Rich, Olivia Thompson, and Nadia Baroni. The team starts with back-to-back meets against Newington, Friday, Oct 2 at NHS and Friday, Oct 9 at WHS.
2020 Wethersfield Swim & Dive- Julia Pitchell, Riley Wilhelm, Mia Destefani, Haley Krawczyk, Libby Rich, Emily Wolf, Lindsey Pia, Olivia Thompson, Madison King, Nadia Baroni. Picture- Jo-Ann Campbell
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin