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NH goes full contact, while Upper Valley rivalries renewed

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 5:55 PM EDT
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LEBANON, NH. (WCAX) - Vermont and New Hampshire are taking different approaches when it comes to the upcoming high school sports season. But, in the Upper Valley, the COVID-19 impact on teams could actually end up bring the community closer together.

High schools around the region all gearing up for their fall sports programs. In New Hampshire, unlike Vermont, that includes full-contact football. In past years, tight huddles during practice were commonplace. This year, social distancing will be part of the drill. However, New Hampshire high schools are moving forward with full-contact football games. At Hanover High School, helmets are being retrofitted with face shields and players will be using gators as an extra precaution.

“This has all been nationally vetted and other schools and teams are using them so we are working with those protocols and doing the best to keep them safe,” said Hanover High Athletic Director Megan Sobel.

Across the Connecticut River in Hartford, tough tackles will not be in the playbook; 7-on-7 touch football is the new formation for Vermont football teams this year.

“While I certainly don’t like the outcome, I understand from a safety standpoint, Vermont’s numbers, we didn’t get here on accident,” said Hartford A.D. Jeff Moreno.

Hartford High will also limit its numbers in the locker room. Hanover won’t we be opening their locker rooms at all.

Football may look different in both states, but in the Upper Valley, past rivalries are being renewed. The idea is to keep the competition close to home. Hartford will be playing Hanover this year in other sports like soccer and field hockey. Neighboring towns in different divisions will also go head to head. It’s something that hasn’t happened for decades.

“I think some of these rivalries that we haven’t had against Hartford and Lebanon and Stevens they are going to be great,” Sobel said.

And while the concession stands may remain closed and far fewer fans will be allowed in the grandstands, those passionate about high school sports look forward to saying two simple words: “Game on.”

“I’m just happy to be talking sports again,” Moreno said. “I’ve heard from parents, coaches and students all summer long how much they need this,” Sobel said.

Both athletic directors acknowledge that conditions on the ground could determine whether a season gets cut short. However, they say at this point, simply getting the kids back on the playing fields is a win for everybody.

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