Massachusetts high school football returned this past week from its COVID-19 exile with a host of safety protocols and the unbridled joy of the opening day of practice.
A Globe tour of a half-dozen fields showed general compliance with the MIAA’s recommendations to protect athletes and coaches from COVID-19, plus a universal relief to be back on the gridiron after more than 450 days away — even if it was partially covered with snow.
“I was shocked we were getting this chance and very grateful for the opportunity,” said Duxbury coach Dave Maimaron. “It’s just awesome.”
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Among the changes players must deal with is wearing a mouthguard and a mask at the same time. That’ll take some getting used to. Take the mouthguard out, and the player must leave the field to sanitize it.
It also makes communication more difficult. Teams are going to have to practice their diction along with their no-huddle offenses.
“It’s going to take some getting used to, so making calls is going to be hard,” explained Wayland coach Scott Parseghian. “So where we used to have words, like ‘sharp whip tornado,’ now we might just go, ‘One!’ ”
But teams are doing their best to capture the magic of the football season. That includes some attempts to make up for traditions lost in the fall, such as the annual Thanksgiving rivalry games.
Hull and Cohasset, which usually have a date in November, are now talking turkey in April, according to Hull coach Mike O’Donnell.
“I’m going to play them as if it’s the Thanksgiving Day game,” O’Donnell said of the game scheduled for the Friday during the schools’ spring break. “They’re going to bring the trophy.”
Duxbury sophomore Nicholas Ayres summed up the feeling after his first practice amid the snow mounds: “I’m just excited to get out here and play.”
See photos from around Eastern and Central Massachusetts from the first week of high school football practices:
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at email@example.com.