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H.S. Fall Sports: Games may be played starting Saturday

State moves to Step III of return plan for schools, opening the door for high school games to be played starting Saturday.
Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 8:55 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Over six months after being sent to the sidelines due to the pandemic, it’s officially ‘Game On’ once again for high school sports in Vermont.

At Tuesday’s state press conference, Secretary of Education Dan French announced that Vermont will be transitioning from Step II to Step III of it’s ‘Strong and Healthy Start’ plan for schools this Saturday. For high schools, that means fall sports teams can begin playing games this Saturday as well.

Teams began practicing on September 8th, the first day of school. There are changes, mask requirements for athletes in most fall sports...7-on-7 touch football instead of traditional tackle...volleyball being played outdoors.

But at schools across the state, like Essex High School, there was an added bounce in the step of players and coaches alike on this day. After months filled with cancellations and uncertainty, the games are finally set to return.

“It’s awesome.”, says Stefan Digangi, a senior on the Essex boys soccer team. “I wasn’t very optimistic that we were going to have a season this year. Personally, I didn’t get to play baseball in the spring and that was pretty disappointing. Being able to come out, play games, be competitive, I think it’s awesome that we finally got to this point. So we’re super excited.”

“I thought this was definitely not going to happen, so to be here right now is really exciting.”, adds fellow Essex soccer senior Tyler Santaniello. “Everybody’s been adapting to the new situation with the masks, because it’s been hard, but this is going to be a fun season.”

“I’m incredibly happy for them, especially our seniors.”, says Essex boys soccer head coach Jake Orr. “We probably have a few kids that will go on and play the next level, but for a lot of kids this fall senior season is kind of the culmination of 13 or 14 years of playing soccer. To get the news today that we’re going to be able to play a real game next week is pretty exciting for me as a coach, but I’m mostly just happy for our kids. I’m happy they’re going to get that experience.”

One sport that will have to deal with some scheduling challenges due to the decision to allow games to begin on Saturday is 7-on-7 high school football.

That season begins this weekend, but of the fourteen games scheduled for this weekend, nine of them were set to be played on Friday night, the 25th, with the other five slated for Saturday morning or early afternoon. Middlebury high school athletic director Sean Farrell, the scheduler for the Vermont Interscholastic Football League, told Channel Three Sports via email Tuesday that schools are still working out how they’ll adjust those opening weekend schedules.

Teams that were set to play Friday night, could move their games to Saturday, but start times may have to be adjusted to ensure there are enough officials available to cover all the games.

Farrell said his hope is that there will be a clearer picture for that first weekend of the 7-on-7 season on Wednesday.

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