Cheering students dressed in blue and white have traditionally filled the stadium bleachers for one Friday each fall, crowding in for the annual Staples High School homecoming game in Westport, CT. But this year is different.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s football season is in question for all of Connecticut. The
Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, otherwise known as the CIAC, has continued to
debate whether fall sports, among which football remains the most popular among conference
schools, should be allowed to continue among the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The season is set to begin on Sep. 8 and to end on Oct. 30. While no decision is finalized, the
CIAC has said it plans to have a meeting on Monday in order to finalize a plan for all fall sports.

“I think the plan that the CIAC came out with so far is extremely fair. If you’re going to go forward
with sports I think it’s very well thought out and I think they did a good job to try to give the kids
the best experience possible if you’re going to Play.” said Dave Ruden, a local sports reporter,
of 30 years who has covered the CIAC’s discussions.

According to the CIAC’s website, the plan is for fall sports to occur with a few modifications.
These include no spectators, a smaller schedule of 6-8 games and practices in groups of 15.
The changes have angered students and families.

“I’m really sad that it’s my last year. I won’t be able to cheer on my friends,” Andrew Amato, a
Weston High School senior said.

The modified season also greatly affects the players and their recruitment process. Last year , Staples High School sent three students to schools like John Hopkins, Michigan and Harvard in football scholarship. The loss of a complete season has now threatened the future of about half dozen members of the class of 2021 that seek to be recruited to play in college.

“{The players} aren’t gonna have film for college coaches to look at and some kids will either
maybe not get the offer they hoped for,” Ruden said, “and there’s going to be some that may not
even get the opportunity to play in college.”

A cancelled season would mean many students would miss recruitment opportunities. The Connecticut Department of Health issued a statement to the CIAC on Aug. 1 expressing their concern and the need for both football and girls volleyball to get moved to the fall. As of now, the CIAC has chosen to ignore this and continue with the upcoming season. If they were to follow the DOC’s guidelines, the football season would have been long-gone by now.

Others have begun to experiment with different ways sports can be played. Ruden said he
believes it would be effective if students were to attend school for two weeks. If these two weeks
run smoothly regarding no positive cases, then sports should follow. If they don’t run smoothly,
then that is an issue within itself.

“It’s gonna be a real let down if I don’t get to play my senior season,” said Staples Varsity kicker
Max Szostack. “Not only will I miss the game, I will miss out on my last season with my
teammates. I’m just hoping the season stays on even if it means having guidelines and I have to
wear a mask.”

Many Westport residents have begun sharing a petition in hopes of making the rules more
lenient. The petition calls for the implementation of measures that would reduce exposure between players, including daily temperature checks, excluding parent exclusion from the
field, mask requirements for those entering sports stadiums and the prohibition of huddles during sports games.

The petition has acquired almost 1,000 signatures.