BRISTOL - The augmented football season came to an end last week, concluding an activity that left everyone involved longing for the real game.
Unfortunately, the future of high school football in Connecticut remains uncertain, but players and coaches across the state are desperately hoping for a spring season.
“I wouldn’t say it was a task, it was good to get together, it was good to be around the guys and have a chance to do some football-like activities,” said Bristol Central head coach Jeff Papazian following Friday’s seven-on-seven scrimmage against Bristol Eastern. “Hopefully it’s not the last time we get together, but that’s yet to be seen.”
Despite the lacking positivity towards playing seven-on-seven and participating in lineman challenges, the players still learned lessons they can apply to tackle football once given the opportunity. In a format of football that exclusively features passing, a pair of run-focused offenses in Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central were able to work on different aspects of the game.
“That’s what this is helpful for is for the secondary and for the quarterbacks and the receivers,” Papazian said. “I thought we played the ball in the air pretty decent [Friday] and we’ve come a long way. We have athletic kids, we should be able to run around and make plays.”
Even if the passing attack does not see in an increase in play calling, teams always need to be prepared to defend the pass.
“We practiced coverage way more than we ever have,” Eastern head coach Anthony Julius said. “I think our kids understand coverage a lot better, which is great. It was definitely a good learning experience for them.”
For many players, this was an opportunity to improve skills they may not work on as much in their traditional football settings or even uncover skills they did not know they had.
For Central’s Victor Rosa, while he may play quarterback for his high school team, his future as a football player at the collegiate level will come likely as a receiver or cornerback so he was able to spend plenty of time working on pass coverage. He was also given the opportunity to play in the slot and run routes to work on his receiving.
“We have way more chemistry in the secondary,” Rosa said. “We’re way more prepared and when pads get on and we can actually press for once, it will be a whole [different] game.”
Anyone who lost this football season will say the experience of tackle football on a Friday night cannot be replicated. Appreciative of the chance to have something to do on fall afternoons, everyone’s mind is focused on February when they hope they will be starting a real football season like they expected to in August.
“Obviously 11-on-11 would be amazing to play, but this seven-on-seven, at least we have an opportunity to get on the field and get this chemistry down,” Rosa said. “Hopefully we have a season in February.”
While there might be some rust to shake off if football is given the green light to start in February, the teams will likely have gotten a head start in other areas thanks to their work from the fall.
“The thing that they did get out of it is that they had the camaraderie with their teammates,” Julius said. “They were here practicing every day, building those relationships with their coaches and the other adults in the program. That experience is really what football is all about. We were able to develop kids into better young men and that’s what we’re really about here.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org