Naugatuck Pop Warner cancels season; Woodland Junior Hawks hoping to play

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused one local youth football and cheerleading league to cancel its season, while another is holding out hope still that the kids can play this fall.

Naugatuck Pop Warner, which is part of the Southern Connecticut Pop Warner League, announced last week that it canceled the season.

In a statement, Paul McGrath, president of the league, said the decision was made based on recommendations from the state Department of Public Health and the Southern Connecticut Pop Warner League.

Health officials define tackle football and competitive cheerleading as “high-risk” sports when it comes to spreading coronavirus.

“We worked hard and made every effort to ensure a football and cheerleading season, but unfortunately that will not be,” said McGrath in the statement.

The league, which started preseason conditioning Aug. 3, will provide a refund to players, less $25. The $25 is to offset the cost of insurance already paid by league. Players can also use fees paid for the 2021 season.

“I want to thank our board, coaches, parents and most importantly our student-athletes for their dedication and hard work during our preseason conditioning,” McGrath said in the statement.

The Woodland Junior Hawks, which play in the Nutmeg Youth Football League, are still hoping to play this year. The league is planning to follow the lead of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

“We are going to try and have a season as long as we are able to,” Woodland Junior Hawks Vice President Don Shivas said. “I spoke with our league president, David Dugan, and we are going to align with the CIAC and what they are doing concerning football.”

The CIAC’s plan for fall high school sports is in flux. Representatives from the CIAC and the DPH met last week to discuss state recommendations, including a postponement of football and volleyball to the spring. As of press time last Friday, the CIAC was moving forward with plans to play tackle football with games starting Oct. 1. Teams would play only six games.

The Woodland Junior Hawks will have four teams in the NYFL. The Junior Hawks cheerleading squad, under the direction of Kelly Hiltz, will have three teams and only cheer during games, since the competition season has been canceled.

“We are hoping to open the season the same calendar week as the CIAC,” Shivas said. “The league schedule is still being worked out, looking at what fields will be available, and that schedule will be released in the coming weeks.”

“The kids are excited to be back on the field, and they are doing well practicing the safety protocols,” Shivas added. “We are planning on having a six-game schedule. We are going to mirror the CIAC as closely as possible.”