Scott Parseghian was soaked. The 49 players vying for junior varsity and varsity spots on his Wayland High football team were soaked too.
But for two hours Monday evening, in the cold, pouring rain, with temps hovering in the mid-30s, the Warriors practiced under the lights until 7:30 p. m. with the enthusiasm and determination of the last workout before Thanksgiving Day.
Welcome to the MIAA’s Fall II campaign, a “wedge” season created to offer opportunity to those sports, headlined by football, that were cancelled during the 2020 Fall I season because of the COVID-19 concerns.
If that translates into Day 1 for high school football on Feb. 22, then so be it.
“What these kids have been through, to be out there tonight, it was great,” said Parseghian, in his 20th season as head coach. “It was well worth it. The excitement was out there.”
And emotions too. “After practice, there were players coming up to me, saying ‘Thanks’ . . . They have not played a football game since Thanksgiving 2019, it was like, ‘Wow.’ That meant a lot.”
The Warriors were also enthused to set foot on the school’s re-surfaced FieldTurf that had been completed last winter, but with the cancellation of spring sports, it was first used by the field hockey and soccer teams last fall.
Wayland put in 15 state-approved 90-minute practices in the fall, focusing on offense and defense, but aside from a “Friday Night Lights” debut, the sessions were held on the grass field.
After the school received approval from the town to have the field plowed on Friday, two CAT compact tracker loaders were at Wayland early Monday morning to clear the turf, pushing 20-foot high piles of snow behind each end zone.
The focus Monday night was special teams, and then defense, “getting kids reps who are not fulltime players, getting everyone involved,” Parseghian said.
Now they get to work, targeting a home scrimmage on March 6, followed by the season-opener on Friday, March 13th at Dual County League foe Boston Latin.
“Kind of exciting,” said Parseghian. “My 20th season, and we’ll have two seasons in 2021.”
The DCL plans to play a five-game regular-season. Then the four best teams will be chosen for a ‘Final 4.’ “Our goal is to be one of those final four,” said Parseghian. “We’re lucky to play in a great league.
The first step was Monday.
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The Brighton Bengals were able to get out on a plowed Daly Field Monday and run conditioning drills and skill work in 8-on-0 drills. Per Brighton coach Randolph Abraham, there were 30 kids at the first practice, with more to come, but only 24 were cleared to practice on day one.
“The first day is always about logistics,” said Abraham. “It’s tough because you have to deal with registration, physicals, and things like, who has the right size helmet? It was kind of hectic, in a good way, because we’re out there just dealing with football-related stuff.”
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Though some lingering snow forced the Scituate football team to practice indoors for the beginning of the Fall II season Monday, coach Herb Devine knows his team has already waited this long. What’s a few more days?
“To put a plow out there, it just doesn’t make any sense,” Devine said, noting that a new turf field was installed at Scituate High in 2019. “As much as in my head I’m like ‘Oh, it’d be great to be out there and get a little fired up about it,’ realistically, it rained today and it looks like it’ll be 50 degrees by Wednesday. If we’re out there by Thursday or Friday, we’re fine.”
Devine said that even with all of the administrative work that came with having nearly 60 kids on the team and dealing with COVID-related protocols, it was great to finally feel like a coach again.
“It was kind of like setting the tone in August, getting everybody in and on the same page and understanding the rules,” Devine said. “It was fun to see my coaches out there actually coaching. It’s fun to finally be a coach again.”
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Anthony Fallon has been an assistant at several schools, including two stints at Canton. On Monday, he ran his first practice as a head coach following the retirement of Dave Bohane this past winter, and he had to run it under the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It looked like a huge mental lift for the kids,” said Fallon, coached at Canton in the 1990s before working at Bellingham and Millis, then returning to Canton.
“It was my first day as a head coach, and I quickly realized you got to deal with all the little stuff too. But it’s fun putting the program together and the senior captains and the coaching staff are all very experienced, so that made my job easier.”
. . .
Perennial Patriot League power Duxbury started Day 1 outdoors before shifting indoors due to the weather.
The players worked on conditioning and then did whiteboard work for offense and defense. Senior captain Ryan Prudente noted that the Dragons got in a lot of reps over February break, which helped them get back into a rhythm.
Even so, officially starting the season Monday was another major step in the right direction.
“Finally being able to practice with the boys again was exhilarating,” Prudente said. “Seeing everyone suited up again was the best feeling, and I’m so glad it was able to happen during this COVID season. Now it’s time to flip the switch and get to work. Big things coming soon.”
The Dragons, who are pursuing their 13th consecutive league title, are scheduled to open the season Friday, March 12, at Plymouth North.
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At St. John’s Prep, the reigning Division 1 Super Bowl champions went through COVID-19 testing Monday as students reconvened from school break. Plows will remove snow from the turf field Tuesday, and the Eagles will begin practicing Wednesday.
“All our practice fields will be available like they are in the fall,” said Prep AD Jameson Pelkey. “We’re fortunate here to get our fields plowed and it gives us the ability to be outside. We also have our wellness center and field house where we could put a team in to go through things. It has to be really bad weather or something to force us inside though.”
In West Roxbury, Catholic Memorial kicked off the preseason with work inside its bubble on campus.
The Catholic Conference is tentatively scheduled to start play the weekend of March. 12.
Even the cold rain couldn’t damper the spirits of Methuen’s football players. With no locker room access, the student-athletes had to wait in the cold as the coaches separated everyone into cohorts. Then after practice, they had to wait in line to go drop their helmets off at their locker space so head coach Tom Ryan and his staff could sanitize them with a fog gun.
“The kids were just sitting in the cold rain. It’s a hard way to start practice,” said Ryan. “Then you have to organize your cohorts, then after practice it’s starting to pour and the kids can’t take their helmets home so we had to walk them into their locker space. There’s a lot of aggravating things between the rain and the protocols, but the kids still had a blast. They were flying around out there.”
Correspondents Trevor Hass, Jake Levin and Nate Weitzer also contributed.
Craig Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.