High School Athletes in Many Sports Returning to Action

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James Brown will have a senior season of football that will give him and his teammates from John F. Kennedy Catholic Preparatory School in Somers the opportunity to win back-to-back Catholic High School Football League championships.

“We’re blessed to play,” Brown told CNY. “I just can’t wait to get back out there with my guys. I really want to go back to back this year. I’ve been looking forward all year for all the hard work to pay off.”

CHSFL teams in Westchester County will begin practice Feb. 27 with a shortened five-game regular season scheduled to begin March 13. High school football had its season moved to the spring due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Football is classified as a high-risk sport along with basketball, ice hockey, lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball and cheerleading. High-risk sports programs were granted permission to begin Feb. 1 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, with final approval coming from local county health officials.

“The kids are excited,” said John F. Kennedy Catholic Prep football coach and athletic director Dominick Tassone. “It’s been a long time. We’re coming off our championship (in 2019), so we’re anxious to get back out there. We have most of our team returning back. We’ll take it day by day, but we’re definitely excited.”

CHSFL programs had the opportunity to play 7 on 7 flag football in the fall and will continue their pandemic safety protocol in the spring by not using locker rooms, having team meetings via Zoom, expanding team benches with chairs six feet apart and making hand sanitizer available to athletes and coaches. 

“We want to set the standard,” said Iona Preparatory School football coach Joe Spagnolo. “We want to do things the right way. We want to show everybody the right way to play football during a pandemic. We’re working our tail off to make sure we’re ready for the start date in a couple of weeks.”

Athletes and coaches in CHSAA high-risk sports programs in New York City were still waiting earlier this week for the OK to begin practice. Mayor Bill de Blasio was scheduled to meet with New York City Department of Health officials Feb. 12 and was expecting to have a decision within two weeks of the meeting.

“Several case studies that have been done now have a lot of evidence that football and some other sports are not responsible for spreading this virus,” said Msgr. Farrell football coach and athletic director Tony Garofalo. “It was done successfully in the fall in so many states that we can point to. So I think we’re hopeful that if they look at the science, they should be saying they should be OK.”

Garofalo added that his athletes are ready to compete and they’ve been resilient during a difficult and challenging pandemic.

“We're very proud of the kids with the way they’ve adjusted and adapted to anything thrown their way,” he said. 

With CHSAA schools in New York City waiting for consent to start, teams already starting in Westchester County are looking for opponents. The boys’ basketball teams from Archbishop Stepinac in White Plains and Iona Prep in New Rochelle are filling their schedule by holding the Brother Stoldt Best of Seven Series between the two rivals beginning Friday, Feb. 26, in New Rochelle.

“We are hoping to be back competing against all our fellow teams in the CHSAA,” said Archbishop Stepinac coach Patrick Massaroni, who noted his team began tryouts Feb. 5. 

“For the kids, both Iona and Stepinac felt it was the right move to do something for the kids to get exposure and be back playing.”

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