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Major Additional Changes for High School Football

No playoffs, two games per week, linemen to play skill positions in 1st and 3rd quarters
Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 6:38 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - We already knew the high school football season would be played under a 7-on-7 format this Fall, but we didn’t know exactly how extensive the changes would be to the sport outside of that. On Friday, we got a more detailed look at just how this season is going to work, as the Vermont Interscholastic Football League and the Vermont Principals Association released the 2020 Football Guide.

The biggest takeaway right off the bat? There will be NO playoffs in high school football this year. That decision, according to the document, made by the VPA football committee because “the 7 v 7 format has fundamentally changed the game and they felt that it was more important to have students participate in as many games as possible rather than focusing on a postseason.”

St. Johnsbury head coach Rich Alercio’s Hilltoppers figure to be one of the teams most impacted by this decision as they have played in the D1 championship game 3 of the last 4 years. He says he doesn’t necessarily agree with it, but ultimately playoffs aren’t the most important thing for the kids.

“They’re just not gonna understand. I don’t think you can tell a 15, 16, or 17 year old and they’re gonna wrap their head around it,” Alercio said. “They’re gonna say, ‘Well why can’t we?’ And ultimately, we have to live within the guidelines that we’re given and try to make the best of the situation. I wish we did have it, I think we could somehow have it, but again, that’s not as important as it is to be able to get kids back to playing, keep them engaged, keep them together and have the positive influences mentally and physically on their health.”

The document also states that rather than the typical 12-minute quarters, the game will instead be played with 15-minute quarters and a running clock. Players will wear helmets and face coverings, but no other traditional protective equipment. The offense is pass only, and the quarterback will have 4 seconds to throw before it’s considered a loss of down at the original line of scrimmage.

But one of the biggest changes is who will be on the field at any given time. It was initially feared that linemen may not have a place in this new format, but instead, they will exclusively play the skill positions in the first and third quarters with the possible exception of quarterback. Alercio said it’s a nice idea, but there are some unintended consequences.

“We don’t have a lot of linemen, because a lot of linemen have opted to do something else,” Alercio said. “We would have a freshman offensive lineman starting in a varsity game and maybe some upperclassmen backups that don’t ever get the chance to play at their position because the freshman offensive lineman is now the starting free safety.”

The other major change is that in an attempt to play as close to a full season as possible, and without the contact of traditional tackle football, the VPA will allow teams to play two games a week: Schools that typically play their home games Friday nights will also play on Tuesdays, and teams that usually play Saturday home games play on Wednesdays. If all goes according to plan with school reopenings, they’re hoping to begin the season Saturday September 26th.

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