BFA Football Adjusting to New Rules
Bobwhites have to adjust to 7-on-7 format
ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - High school football was always going to look different in the age of the coronavirus.
“We don’t use the locker rooms anymore, just for storage of helmets," said BFA senior Thomas Remillard. “And masks are mandatory on the field at all times.”
“It hasn’t taken us long to figure out the check-ins, the temperature checks before practice," added Geoff Murray, head coach of the Bobwhites. "It’s going smoother every day.”
On top of the safety protocols, many players are finding themselves thrust into entirely new roles on the team.
“It’s been quite an adjustment," said Case Ballard, a BFA senior who now finds himself playing receiver and safety instead of his usual spot on the line. "Coming from a lineman’s standpoint it’s been different being able to catch the ball. I’ve played tight end in my prior years, but I haven’t played the positions I’m playing now and it’s been fun but also challenging.”
Few teams are looking at as big an adjustment to the 7-on-7 format as BFA-St. Albans. The Bobwhites have traditionally built their teams on physicality and the ground game...both of which will be absent from the Vermont high school gridiron in 2020.
“Yeah...it kinda sucks to be honest," Ballard said. "But I mean, we gotta keep moving forward and even though we can’t have contact this year, learn something new and maybe that’ll make up for it.”
“Initially we were low on numbers, and I think there were just a lot of guys who didn’t sign up," Remillard said of the effect of the changes. "But I think that actually the new style of play may have drawn some players that may not have played anyways.”
Make no mistake: even with the changes, the Bobwhites aren’t abandoning their identity.
“We’ll bring our usual competitiveness and our usual grit,” Ballard said.
“Our approach is essentially for the first half of our practice, it’s our typical kind of 11-man practice, obviously with no pads," Murray added. "We’re installing our normal defenses and our normal offense. And then the second half of practice we prepare for the current situation which is the 7-on-7 league.”
With school size not as important for competitive balance under the new format, everyone’s schedule is much more regionally compact, including meetings with both BFA-Fairfax (Wednesday, September 30th) and Milton (Tuesday, October 6th). The Yellow Jackets and Bullets are the two closest high school football teams geographically, but BFA plays them very rarely due to the gap in divisions.
“It’ll be fun to see some of those other teams that we don’t ever see unless it’s maybe in a scrimmage,” Murray said. "And the other thing will be shorter bus rides which will be nice, and that also allows us to play another game a week.”
But above all, the Bobwhites are happy just to have the opportunity to get together again and compete in what has been a rough year for everyone.
“I think everyone’s happy to be here and be able to be on the field and I think we definitely still have good team chemistry and I look to have that grow," Remillard said.
“In many ways, it’s about participation this year a little bit more than competition," Murray said. "This is much better than what we had in the Spring. We’re out here with our friends, we’re out here coaching and it’s good for the players mentally and physically to be out here playing some football.”
BFA begins its season on Friday the 25th when they host Mt. Mansfield.
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