Football Keeps Focus Forward to Fall II
by Mackenzie P.
Courtesy of Duxbury Football.
Despite Covid-19, many Duxbury High School sports teams were able to play this fall with a later start date, shorter game schedules and modifications; however, football was not one of them. Postponed to February of 2021, “sustained face to face contact,” as Duxbury’s Athletic Director Thom Holdgate phrased it, is a major aspect of the game making it high risk and therefore unable to be played this fall. Instead, the season has been pushed to Fall II, an additional fourth sports season created specially for this year due to the pandemic. Even without certainty of there being a season, the team spent this fall working hard to prepare for when they can get back on the field.
This fall, many towns around Massachusetts were red zones, meaning infection rates were becoming dangerously high. This led to the birth of Fall II, a season created as a second chance for these specific areas—a last resort, a last hope. The thinking was that lower-risk sports with more of a chance of eventually running (volleyball, soccer, etc.) would possibly be able to play in February, when those red zone areas would hopefully have decreased infection rates.
“The Fall II was created for those schools that couldn’t play any sports this fall,” said Mr. Holdgate. “It made sense to put football in that season,” he added, as “no one wanted to cancel a sport at that time,” he said, referring to earlier this fall. Now, what was once a definite no is now a possibility. Of course there would be modifications, one definitely being a mask, but a football season for the 2020-2021 school year is no longer totally out of the question.
The steps for Duxbury High School Football to be approved are as follows: the Massachusetts EEA (Energy and Environmental Affairs) must first approve football to be played. Then, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) sport committee for football must create modifications for the sport. Finally, these modifications must be okayed by the MIAA Sports Medicine Committee, the MIAA Covid-19 Task Force, and the MIAA Board of Directors, in that order. The Board will most likely make their decision on what Fall II sports to approve in late January or early February.
If football does indeed play, the season will start February 22nd and will conclude on April 25th. There are currently seven possible game days scheduled, five of which most likely being against opponents within Duxbury’s half of the Patriot League, the Keenan division. The other two games will most likely be out of league. As of now, a full State Tournament has not been cancelled. However, if this does not end up being an option, an in-league tournament referred to as the Patriot Cup, or something similar to this, may run instead.
Despite the lack of a season, Head Coach Maimaron ran a total of 16 practices with over 80 kids in the football program,—masked and socially distanced,—who signed up to play. With Covid-19 requiring practices to be contact free, training focused mainly on conditioning, speed, agility, and footwork. When possible to do without contact, basic plays were run as well.
“We actually implement and teach the base offensive and defensive schemes to the players,” Coach Maimaron said, referring to this as “installs.” The training week concluded with flag football on Thursdays. Instead of tackling, players were downed when an opponent pulled off their flag, making this version of football Covid-friendly.
“Getting to step on the field with some of my closest friends is literally indescribable,” said senior captain Anthony L. “If you had asked me this question mid-practice after running sprints,” he said, “I probably would have given a different answer. But, looking back it was really awesome to be back out there with the coaches and the boys.”
The feeling seemed to be mutual, as Head Coach Maimaron emphasized the challenge of having the cycle of the annual football season be broken for the first time in 30 years as a coach; 40 years if including his time spent as a player. “The kids need structure, they need to be involved, they need to be in school,” Coach Maimaron said. “You realize how important athletics is from a mental health perspective.”
In addition to impacting the high school football season, the coronavirus has also changed things for college recruiting. “So much of what colleges are looking at is the season,” senior captain Anthony L. said.
To make the best of the situation, Coach Maimaron worked to have some practices from this fall filmed for players to use these clips towards continuing their athletic careers after high school.
The Dragons enter every season with three goals, according to Coach Maimaron. “Win the first game, win the league, and win the last game,” he said, the last hopefully being the Division II State Championship match at Gillette Stadium. These goals may have to change slightly depending on the format of the season, yet Duxbury is ready to go as far as they can.
Led by senior captains Anthony L., Cam R., Ryan P., and Tim O., juniors Delby L., Campbell P., Brady M., Bowman R., James A., and Ryan A. were also mentioned as experienced and important contributors. If a starter were to contract Covid-19 or needed to quarantine due to contract tracing, something which occurred multiple times this fall with other sports, Duxbury feels confident with the depth, experience level, and flexibility of returning players to persevere.
To keep each other safe and playing, Coach Maimaron urges players to wear a mask, social distance, and continue “making wise social decisions.” If Coach Maimaron became subject to taking time off due to Covid-19, he feels “very fortunate that we have a very dedicated and experienced coaching staff” in the situation that someone else would need to step in.
“It was really tough to get guys motivated to want to play, just because there was so much uncertainty regarding the season,” Anthony added in regards to training this fall. “But once we got out there and started playing again it was awesome. I think the biggest positive was just seeing how eager everyone became after a few weeks of practice,” he continued. “The original tentativeness and lack of motivation went away after about week two and people became really excited to practice and get better, much to my surprise,” he said. “I think guys started to see how special an opportunity like this, even if it’s just for a month, is.”