One football season will be ending and another will be beginning on the same day. This is the story of the Catholic High School Football League (CHSFL) during the Covid-19 pandemic.
On April 17, CHSAA programs from the Hudson Valley and Long Island will be competing in bowl games to end their season while CHSAA teams from New York City will kick off their regular season with six games, including Msgr. Farrell hosting Cardinal Hayes on Staten Island.
“It’s great for everybody involved,” Tony Garofalo, Msgr. Farrell varsity football coach since 2015, told CNY of beginning the season. “Our seniors stuck together through all of this, so to see them have something to go out with together is outstanding for them. Our younger players, it will help them with the college process and being able to get film.
“For everybody involved, there are so many reasons why this was important, just to get back to a little bit of normalcy. You only get four years of high school and you want to make the most of them.”
Practice began April 5 for CHSAA teams in New York City after the New York City Department of Health (DOH) cleared athletes last month in the outdoor high-risk high school sport of football to begin competitive games in mid-April.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in January that high-risk sports could begin Feb. 1, with final approval from local officials. CHSAA high-risk sports athletes began having practices and games in February in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. The CHSFL had its first games the weekend of March 12 for programs in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.
John F. Kennedy Catholic Preparatory School was the first football program from the archdiocese to compete in a 2021 game when it defeated St. Dominic’s of Oyster Bay, 34-0, March 12.
Kennedy Catholic’s win came days after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Health announced that Catholic schools in New York City could begin having athletes in high-risk sports train April 5, start official team practice April 26 and begin competing May 15. Two weeks later, the Department of Health gave football players and coaches the opportunity to compete sooner.
High-risk sports are ones in which Covid-19 may be more prone to spread among athletes, coaches and officials. These sports are football, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, competitive cheer, wrestling and ice hockey. High school football, a fall sport, and lacrosse, a spring sport, are the only sports in this group normally contested outdoors.
The CHSFL had a 7 on 7 flag football season in the fall, giving players and coaches the opportunity to compete with Covid-19 protocols and prepare teams for an outdoor spring season.
“They’ve been in limbo since last year at this time with so many question marks,” Garofalo said. “Bringing them back in and letting them have (this spring) season will deliver the memories they deserve.”