MIAA weighs details for spring football season

If everything goes according to plan, the opening day of high school football practice in Massachusetts is scheduled to begin on Feb. 22.

What happens after that remains to be seen.

The MIAA Football Committee met Tuesday and a main topic was what the 2020 season — slated to begin in March — would look like. Still to be determined — probably at the next scheduled football meeting Oct. 14 — is how many games would be played and whether there is potential for a postseason tournament.

A possibility bandied about is allowing teams to begin conditioning work a week before the Feb. 22 start, which falls on February vacation, leading to a seven-game regular season with the prospects of playing two postseason games, whether regional or statewide.

“I would like to see something similar to this,” said Stoneham athletic director and football committee member David Pignone. “I don’t know if a state-wide playoff would fly right now, though I’d be in favor of it. I’d like to see us play five or six games, qualify eight teams and have a regional tournament and/or possibly a Super Bowl.”

Unknown is whether the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will OK the plan. Milton football coach Steve Dembowski said it was like he was on a witness stand while he was presenting the case to play football to the EEA.

“It was a rough process, we were notified Friday afternoon that they would be meeting on a Tuesday morning,” Dembowski recalled. “The (football coaches association) held an emergency meeting that Sunday and I felt that we came up with some great ideas and presented them to the EEA, but it was like the decision had already been made.”

Coaches are hoping the EEA will look to the almost three dozen states playing fall football and determine the sport can be played safely.

“You have 35 states playing high school football. Boston College is getting ready to play its first game and if UMass was in a league, I think they’d be playing right now,” Dembowski said. “It’s frustrating from the standpoint that given the appropriate safety procedures, it can be done.

“One of my former players, Mike Fallon, is at UMass. He said he couldn’t come home because the players are staying within their bubble. I think high school kids, given the same sort of structure and safety protocols, would do the same thing.

“It’s very weird not to be preparing for game two, but this is a learning experience. Nothing can be taken for granted.”

For fall 2021, the current format calls for eight divisions and an eight-game regular season in which the top 16 teams would qualify for the playoffs. Dembowski said the state football coaches association would like some input in hopes of changing that scenario.

“We would prefer a plan in which postseason games would begin after Thanksgiving. When we surveyed our coaches, that’s what they wanted,” Dembowski said. “The consolation games haven’t worked out as well as they had hoped. It’s been for the teams who don’t make the playoffs, but for those who make the playoffs and lose (then have to play one or two non-qualifying games before Thanksgiving), it’s been tough.”

In other Football Committee business, Grafton principal Jim Pignataro was re-elected as the committee chairman, while Stoneham athletic director David Pignone will remain secretary. Shrewsbury AD Jay Costa was selected to replace former St. John’s Prep football coach/athletic director Jim O’Leary as vice chairman. O’Leary will remain on the committee.

New committee members are athletic directors Josh MacCreery (Millbury), Steve Traister (Dedham), Scott Fry (Plymouth South), and principals Brian Callaghan (Westboro), John Smith (Dover-Sherborn) and Paul Funk (Dennis-Yarmouth).

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