VIFL Offers Thoughts to Keep Vermont Football Viable

Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, November 16, 2017

White River Junction — It was all about keeping Green Mountain State football vibrant during discussions at Hartford High School on Wednesday at the fall meeting of the Vermont Interscholastic Football League. Among the topics booted around were eight-man football, middle school flag football and ways to avoid canceling subvarsity games.

“How many of you had to cancel junior varsity games?” Burlington High football coach Brennan Carney asked the gathering, prompting about a dozen hands to go up. “We just can’t have that if we want to keep this sport alive in our state.”

Carney thinks he has a solution, at least a possible one.

“Don’t cancel the game if the other team shows up with seven players,” he explained. “Play a seven-on-seven game. No matter how many players are there, have a game. We don’t want the kids to stop playing football. You coaches need to take over on game day and get some kind of game played. Canceling jayvee games is not the thing to do.”

Every school in the state was supposed to send a representative to the meeting, but seven schools did not. That included Oxbow High, which decided shortly after the start of preseason practices in mid-August that it would not field a varsity team for 2017.

VIFL executive secretary Bob Hingston said he had heard from the Oxbow principal, Jean Wheeler, who said she was 90 to 95 percent sure her school would field a team in 2018.

It did not sound as promising for Missisquoi, which completed its second VPA Division III season with low numbers and one victory. Hingston thought that there was a possibility that Missisquoi could co-op with BFA-Fairfax, one of its nearby D-III rivals.

“If Missisquoi drops out, we could drop Oxbow into their Division III slot,” said Sean Farrell, the VIFL scheduler. It was also mentioned that a co-op team from ball Enoburg and Richford could be coming into the league.

Essex’s Shawn Morse made a big pitch for the return of eight-man football. Vermont has had eight-man football in the past, shutting down that program after the 2003 season, when previous eight-man programs were able to put 11-man teams on the field. However, with ongoing concerns over concussions in football, the numbers have dropped dramatically. Only three Vermont schools have freshman, junior varsity and varsity rosters. Many schools have just varsity programs.

“We have to be realistic about what’s going on in our state in regards to keeping out sport alive,” said Morse. “There is nothing wrong with eight-man football. It’s real football.”

While there was no resolution about eight-man football, Morse said he has been reaching out to schools and he will continue to do so.

Starting next season, flag football will be the order of the day at all Vermont middle schools. However, the rule does not apply to schools like Bellows Falls, Springfield and others that are run by recreation departments; they can still play tackle football, and some of those teams have to cross state lines to get enough games.

While there was a mixed reaction to that news, Rutland atheltic director and head football coach Mike Norman sees playing flag football as a must.

“With all that CTE stuff, we’ve got to get to padded flag football going to keep the sport alive,” Norman said. “It’s basically football without the tackling.”