VIFL Puts Off Tweaks

Valley News Correspondent
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

White River Junction — The members of the Vermont Interscholastic Football League covered a lot of ground at their fall meeting at Hartford High School on Wednesday, but the biggest issue facing the group — realignment — was left for another day.

A committee involving coaches from all three Vermont gridiron divisions have a meeting scheduled to come up with a formula for realigning the state’s 32 football-playing schools. Two schools, Missisquoi and Mount St. Joseph, canceled their seasons midstream due to low numbers, and Oxbow High had to forfeit a game for the same reason.

Oxbow already has committed to having a team next season, while Missisquoi is going to play a junior varsity schedule for a year before returning to varsity status, VIFL executive secretary Bob Hingston said. “My last communication with MSJ was that this could be the end of MSJ football.”

There was some discussion, but no resolution, about some teams playing eight-man football, rather than no football at all. The Vermont Principals Association last sponsored an eight-man division in 2006.

“We’re looking at making some tough decisions,” said Charlie Burnett, the VIFL member leading the realignment committee. “I’ll take all the suggestions I can get.”

Also kicked around was the possibility of eliminating wild card games. Mike Norman, Rutland’s athletic director and football coach, thought just playing a nine-game schedule, with the top four teams making the postseason, has worked before.

Flag football for middle-school teams came under scrutiny on Wednesday for its inconsistency with officials. VPA-aligned middle-school programs were required to adopt flag football this fall.

“There’s a lack of understanding the rules,” Woodstock coach Ramsey Worrell said. “Sometimes we’re making it difficult for the kids to play the game, when what we are really trying to do is get more kids interested playing football.

“We knew this was not going to be perfect coming out of the box, but we have to have guidelines (for) how aggressive you can be. We have to figure that out.”

On the varsity front, Worrell was also upset with officials who were making some of the players remove their eye black.

“One of my players who had a star under his eye had to take it off. These guys need to lighten up,” Worrell said. “This is small stuff in this day and age.”

Phil Zalinger, the commissioner of the Vermont Football Officials Association, presented sportsmanship awards to Oxbow and U-32.

Rutland High School came in for praise with the way it ran the state championships on Saturday. The only complaint came for a coach who wondered why there couldn’t be portable seats put in a side that currently has standing room only. Norman explained that it will never happen because of Act 250, “and, you know, what the way my team was getting its butt kicked in the championship game, I was glad there were not a lot of fans in back of me.”

The group made a recommendation to the Vermont Principals Association in regards to the mercy rule in championship games. During the regular season, a team trailing by 35 points in the third quarter has the option of not having a running clock, something that becomes automatic in the fourth.

There was some discussion about waiving that rule for championship games, but the group voted, 21-4, to keep the mercy rule intact with one exception.

Should the lead get to 42 points in the third quarter, the clock will keep running even if the lead gets cut back to 35 points later.

The group also discussed, but didn’t act upon, the topic of safe roster levels. Several teams showed up with 16 or 17 athletes at games this season, and that was felt to be too low. Twenty-two was felt to be a safe number.

This led to the discussion of when substitutions should be made in one-sided games. One coach talked about having a big lead and emptying his bench while the other team did not substitute. “That’s when one of my smaller guys got hurt,” he said. “It shouldn’t happen.”