High School Athletes Safely Returning to Action

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John F. Kennedy Catholic Preparatory School in Somers became the first varsity football program in the archdiocese to compete in a 2021 game when it defeated St. Dominic High School of Oyster Bay, 34-0, on March 12.

“It was really exciting to get out there. It meant a lot to us,” said Kennedy Catholic senior quarterback Clayton Proctor, a parishioner of St. Patrick’s Church in Yorktown Heights.

High-risk sports such as football and basketball were given approval by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health to begin practice Feb. 1 with final approval from local officials. Schools from Westchester County and Long Island in the Catholic High School Football League, which competed in 7-on-7 flag football last fall, started practice Feb. 27.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced March 8 that New York City schools, public and Catholic schools, may begin practice in April.

“I feel very grateful because kids in the city are not playing football yet,” said Proctor, who threw for 182 yards and three touchdowns. “I’m very grateful for what New York did for us. I hope kids in New York City play football as well. I know they’re hurting because the seniors are missing their last year.”

Proctor said getting on the field to compete is especially important since he’s still undecided on a college.

“A lot of schools I was talking to said since it was my first year playing quarterback last year, they wanted to see how I could develop and get better,” he said. “Right now, I’m just trying to turn it up.” 

Kennedy Catholic coach and athletic director Dominick Tassone said his athletes are following Covid-19 protocols in practices and games by doing such things as wearing masks on the sidelines and practicing social distance. The sideline benches have been lengthened to 80 yards.

“Seeing the way they responded is pretty impressive,” he said. “We’ve got good, strong, tough kids with a good mindset. I would remind them every day you’re lucky to be out there because thousands of kids in New York City are still not playing football. I always tell them to keep that in perspective because it can be taken away at a moment’s notice.

“I feel safe out there. We just limit the contact, limit who you talk to, limit who you’re standing next to for a period of time. If you’re doing the right things and taking the proper protocols, that’s all you can ask.”

James Brown caught four passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, and Chris Kalle rushed for 120 yards and one touchdown on nine carries for Kennedy Catholic. Bobby Piesco, Thomas Nunziato and Ikenna Ononaji anchored the Gaels defense.

Basketball programs are also waiting for CHSAA programs to start in New York City. Archbishop Stepinac, the defending archdiocesan boys’ basketball champion from White Plains, began tryouts Feb. 5 and just completed a four-game sweep of rival Iona Prep of New Rochelle in the Brother Stoldt Best-of-Seven Series behind the play of tournament most valuable player Malcolm Chimezie.

“We are hopeful that the city schools can all return to play as soon as possible. Our series showed it can be done safely,” said Stepinac coach Patrick Massaroni.

Taylor Brenneman is a senior guard for the Kennedy Catholic girls’ basketball team, which is playing a seven-game series with rival Maria Regina of Hartsdale, in addition to games against CHSAA opponents from Westchester and Long Island.

Basketball players in Westchester County are wearing masks as they compete on the court and are playing without fans watching in the gym.

“Everyone just wants to play at this point, and we’re so grateful we are playing,” said Miss Brenneman, a parishioner of St. James the Apostle in Carmel.

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