CIAC says full-contact football not viable

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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

After weeks of being at odds with the Connecticut Department of Public Health over the ability for traditional 11-on-11 football to be played this fall, the CIAC Board of Control announced Friday that it determined that high-risk, full-contact football is no longer a viable option.

“In alignment with DPH’s encouragement to consider modifications to higher-risk activities, the CIAC will collaborate with athletic directors, coaches and medical experts to provide football players with meaningful low-to-moderate risk fall activities,” the CIAC said in the statement.

The DPH has offered a potential alternative that most established programs are familiar with — 7-on-7 football. The CIAC did not say whether it will move ahead with 7-on-7 football.

Frequently played in summer passing leagues, 7-on-7 football is a limited-contact version of the sport in which the quarterback, five other skill players, and a center of one team operate against the linebackers and defensive backs of another team.

There is no line play, no running game and no pass rush. While most coaches value 7-on-7 for its skill development, it’s never been intended to compete with or replace the real game.

“What do we do with the linemen?” said Woodland coach Chris Moffo, himself a former lineman and offensive line coach, in an interview before the CIAC’s announcement. “We would leave a key part of our senior class out.”

Others are somewhat more optimistic, even if 7-on-7 wouldn’t be the first option.

“I would embrace it, and I think we could make the transition easily to it,” Naugatuck interim head coach Ollie Gray told the Republican-American before the CIAC’s announcement. “If they give the kids an opportunity — whatever form that is to play — if the kids want to do it, then it is beneficial to them and I am definitely 100 percent behind that. The one bad thing about that would be the linemen would be eliminated in 7-on-7 and it would leave the bigger guys out in the cold.”

The CIAC has repeatedly stated that the status of high school fall sports is “fluid” and the organization would continue dialogue with the DPH as COVID-19 test data emerged from the first few weeks of school. Region 16 and Naugatuck both began school last week.

Football teams were allowed to begin integrating noncontact skill practice Aug. 28. Full-squad contact practice cannot begin until Sept. 21.

The CIAC previously said the football season would be no more than six games, which could begin by Oct. 1, and a postseason would conclude before Thanksgiving. Naugatuck and Woodland would compete in the NVL South with Seymour, Oxford, Ansonia and Derby.