An emotional rollercoaster, crushing, torn away.
Those were some of the initial reactions and emotions coming from members of the Joel Barlow football team, who have had to endure a back-and-forth decision regarding playing football by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC).
The CIAC came to a decision to cancel full-contact football for the 2020-21 school year amid COVID-19 concerns back on Sept. 3.
Following the CIAC’s decision, players and coaches from across the state have been determined to convince the state officials to change their decision. More than 1,000 people, including many players and coaches from across the state, met on Sept. 9 at the state capitol to protest the state’s decision.
“I thought [the protest] was cool to see the unity among every single team,” said senior Michael Puglio. “You’re rivals on the field with some of them, but at the end of the day, we’re all fighting for one goal.”
The protests and voices of the coaches and athletes were heard as the CIAC, along with the state Department of Health, met and developed an alternative season for fall sports, which would run from late-February through mid-April.
According to the Hartford Courant, the seasons will host sports that were not able to complete 40% of their games during the regularly scheduled season. For football, they will play a maximum of five games with one scrimmage.
“We have now played four 7-on-7 football games, although it is not the same as watching an 11-on-11 game,” said Joel Barlow athletic director Michael Santangeli. “The athletes and coaches have put their best foot forward and have created very fun and entertaining games for the athletes to compete in and for the spectators to watch and cheer for.”
Santangeli added that the CIAC is still committed to an alternate season that will have teams playing 11-on-11 beginning at the end of February.
With a possible season on the horizon, players and coaches are continuing to practice in hopes that kickoff within the state will arrive soon.
“The main driving factor of all of us coming to every single practice is because most of the seniors on this team have been playing for eight years,” said senior Noah Simons. “We want the season to happen so bad, and we’re remaining hopeful it will. If we just keep putting in the work, hopefully the season will be back and we’ll be ready to go.”
Coming off of a season in which the Falcons finished with a 6-4 record, there were hopes that the team would have an opportunity to improve on last season’s mark. Right now, that vision looks bleak.
“Every time you put on the helmet, you are reminded that you aren’t going to be playing football, not for Joel Barlow at least,” said Simons. “You have to think about the three years we came to play football and our final season gets cancelled. We’re just remaining hopeful.”
During this time of back-and-forth decisions, one of the biggest difficulties among the players has been their mental health.
“It’s been crushing to see all of our hard work go down the drain,” said senior Nicholas Sickinger. “We put in the hours during the summer. This was supposed to be our season.”
Despite the challenges, head coach T.J. Cavaliere has seen great leadership within his team and his senior captains.
“We’ve talked about how being a football player does not make you who you are,” said Cavaliere. “These guys are still taking on the responsibility of communicating with the rest of the team, showing up, running the drills and teaching the younger guys. I can’t say enough about the leadership that they’ve show as members of our team.”