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Article Published September 13, 2020

Tigers Attend Rally to Try to Save Campaign

By By Dean Bibens

Head Coach Steve Filippone and the athletes on the Daniel Hand High School football team are adamant about having a football season, whether that be in the fall or the spring. On Sept. 9, members of the Tigers attended a rally at the state Capitol building in Hartford, where dozens of teams from across the state gathered in an effort to save the campaign.

The rally was held with the hope of getting the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) and the state Department of Health (DPH) to discuss a plan to make football happen in Connecticut. Two days after the rally, those two groups met to talk about alternatives to the season, although there were no imminent changes that stemmed from the meeting.

“They met for about two hours, but basically what came out of it was a really good effort by both sides to make something happen,” Coach Filippone said. “Every single member of the DPH said that it didn’t appear likely that football would be reclassified a medium- to low-risk sport. There were mitigation efforts discussed, such as all players wearing face shields in their helmets. The issue is that the mitigation efforts haven’t been proven, so it wasn’t enough for DPH to give us the go-ahead.”

On Sept. 3, the CIAC announced that football will not be played in its traditional 11-on-11 contact format this year, essentially canceling the season, based on adherence to the state’s DPH guidelines in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CIAC had previously stated that any sport that isn’t played in the fall will not be made up during the spring of 2021.

Coach Filippone is still holding out hope that Hand will get to play some sort of a season. Filippone wants his seniors to go out with an opportunity to compete for the Tigers during their final year of high school.

“[CIAC and DPH] did not say ‘No’ directly, but they said ‘No’ in every way without actually saying it. I’m not sure they will allow us to play, but I am hopeful for these kids,” said Filippone. “The biggest thing is that [Governor Ned Lamont] left the door open for the CIAC to make the decision. I really think there can be a fall season, but as we all know, this virus is in charge of what happens with our season.”

Filippone felt that the rally, which was organized by high school players, proved a huge success. The coach was proud of his players and everyone else who attended.

“It was great to the see the kind of support the sport of football has in the state of Connecticut. This means so much to these kids,” Filippone said. “All of this was put together by the young kids, and it’s amazing. It was a real success. If you left that rally, you wouldn’t have believed that we wouldn’t have a season in the fall.”

Even though there won’t be a typical football season, the Tigers have still been holding workouts in the hope that they will eventually get to take the field and play some games. One alternative for the possibility of playing football this fall is to hold games in a 7-on-7 format, thereby eliminating the offensive and defensive lines on both sides of the ball.

“We are still going to practice as if there will be a season,” said Filippone. “These kids want to stay ready, and I know they will be if the time comes that we end up having a season. They are working incredibly hard.”

Hand’s senior captains are center Ryan Bordiere and wide receiver Will Flanagan. Two-way lineman Tommy Bambrick, along with safeties Colin Telford and Connor Quinn, are also members of the senior class for Coach Filippone’s squad.

Filippone knows there are risks associated with COVID-19, but he also believes that a season is feasible if the proper precautions are taken. This includes having the players wear face shields, designating an area for players to catch their breath after a long play, and participating in social distancing on the sidelines.

“Whether we play 7-on-7 or 11-on-11, it doesn’t make much of a difference, because these kids are all going to be exposed to each other regardless,” Filippone said. “But by wearing masks and shields, that’s one effective way to try and mitigate this from spreading, should a player have the virus. I think we can make it happen.”