BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Football in the fall is something a lot of people look forward to, but Section VI teams are doing things a little different this school year as they finally take the field Thursday for their first games of the season in the state's Fall II season.
With a new season things will look different, so here's some of the changes that have been made to make this Fall II season happen:
Each team will play a five-game regular season schedule that begins Thursday, April 1st and ends in early May. A two-week postseason will follow with the top four teams in each Division making the Section VI playoffs. If a team doesn't qualify for the postseason [week 6 and week 7], they can play another team that also hasn't made the postseason during that time.
It's important to note that each team's regular season schedule could change on any given week depending on COVID pauses, which has already impacted several games in week one. In late February, guidelines for high-risk sports which include football, stated a team must go on pause for 10-days is any athlete or coach tests positive for COVID-19.
With small classes and divisions, each team will be able to play each other once before the postseason begins but in larger classes like A, that's not the case. To make things as fair as possible, the Section drew names out of a hat when it came to eliminating opponents off a shortened schedule. From there, schedules were made with each team receiving either two or three home games. Because of the shortened schedule, several rivalries you would see in a typical season like West Seneca East vs. West Seneca West will not happen.
The game turf will only be open to coaches, players, and members of the media. Fans and parents will not be allowed on the field during a game. To try and encourage social distancing, the team's sidelines have been expanded from the 10-yard line to the 10-yard line and players are encouraged to wear masks while on the sideline. Coaches are encouraged to stay in their small areas so they're not running up and down the sidelines and running into players. Community water jugs will not be available so each player is required to bring their own water bottle and keep it on the sideline. Because there won't be water boys, the Section plans on extending timeouts to give athletes enough time to rehydrate and regroup.
According to Section VI chair Ken Stoldt, fans will be allowed to attend games and that includes fans for both home AND visiting teams. The Section says up to two fans per football player and cheerleader are allowed in the stands and are required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. Fans will be required to sign in next to their athlete's name when they arrive at the school's gate. While the Section has implemented these rules, each individual school can make their own final decision on who can attend games.
As for the Monsignor Martin, games began last week and with six teams taking the field this Fall, teams will also play up to five weeks of regular season football. The sports league has typically followed all guidelines Section VI implements.