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Vermont forgoes full-contact football this fall

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 8/11/2020 2:39:18 PM
Modified: 8/11/2020 5:25:15 PM

WEST LEBANON — There will be no high school football season in Vermont this fall — at least not of the full-contact variety.

Vermont Principals Association executive director Jay Nichols announced the cancellation of traditional 11-on-11 football for the fall season during Gov. Phil Scott’s semiweekly coronavirus pandemic news conference in Montpelier on Tuesday morning. Other restrictions in place for fall sports include mandatory mask use by all athletes except cross country runners during competition, outdoor-only matches in volleyball, limits on spectator attendance and the likelihood that interscholastic contests won’t begin until about two weeks after the Sept. 8 start of school.

In a phone interview, VPA associate executive director Bob Johnson said the VPA and the Vermont Interscholastic Football League are reviewing seven-on-seven touch football as an alternative for this season. Seven-on-seven is often employed as a summer training tool for skill position and passing game work, removing linemen from play. Johnson noted that a number of Vermont and New Hampshire high school teams play in summer seven-on-seven leagues.

Johnson said Vermont medical professionals’ concerns about the transfer of virus-infected droplets between players, particularly linemen, led to the state’s decision.

“Right at the beginning, traditional 11-on-11 tackle football was off the table,” Johnson said. “Talking with the football committee, there was seven-on-seven. … It’s one-hand, two-hand tag but uses officials. There is a proposal going to the VIFL within the next day or two. We’ll meet, talk about things like scheduling and things of that nature.”

The facemask rule applies to both practices and games. Cross country gets an exception so long as staggered starts are employed and distance between competitors is maintained. No more than 150 spectators will be permitted to attend contests, and schools will be expected to put social distancing measures in place.

The fall competition season remains dependent upon when and if Vermont moves from Step II to Step III in its school restart plan. The former allows for in-person instruction and physical distancing for children within a local geographic area. The latter permits the same with restricted attendance from other limited transmission areas — theoretically, other Vermont school districts. Schools closed to in-person instruction (Step I) cannot operate sports programs.

Nichols said he anticipates schools will move to Step III, allowing for interscholastic competition to begin, around Sept. 21. Johnson said the VPA will run open state tournaments this fall and major events such as the state cross country championships at Thetford Academy may still be held, but they will have to adjust to maximum crowd rules to occur.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.

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