MIAA approves football for Fall II season

Staff Writer
Published: 1/29/2021 5:38:28 PM
Modified: 1/29/2021 5:38:26 PM

Fire up the Friday night lights, football is coming back.

The MIAA Board of Directors unanimously approved sport-specific modifications for football and other sports that were pushed back from their traditional season, including indoor track and field, volleyball, soccer and field hockey.

The “Fall II” wedge season between winter and spring will begin Feb. 22 and run through April 25. There will be no MIAA-sponsored tournaments, as with the fall and winter, and schools are encouraged to schedule within leagues and geographic regions to limit travel.

Western Massachusetts won’t begin practice for that season until March 1. Teams will still need three days of conditioning and 15 days of practice before they can play games. Official football practices must take place outside per Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) guidelines, but conditioning work can be performed inside a gym following the EEA rules for health clubs around capacities, spacing and sanitizing.

Very few of the football modifications will affect the play on the field. Huddles will require spacing and that the players face the same direction, so the MIAA recommends hand signals or signs rather than a huddle. There will be mandatory water breaks at the halfway point of each quarter signified by the referee on the first change of possession after the six-minute mark of the quarter. Team timeouts will be extended to two minutes.

To allow for social distancing with officials, coaches and players must stay beyond two yards from the field of play while the ball is live. 

Masks must be worn at all times during play and on the sidelines. Gaiters are not permitted. Splash guards are acceptable in addition to masks.

Game day rosters will be limited to 45 players and a maximum of six coaches. The team box will be expanded to the 10-yard line to give teams more room to social distance. Teams are required to physically mark social distance ranges with “cones, spray paint, etc.”

The number of spectators, or their presence at all, will be up to current EEA and state guidelines for large crowd gatherings.

Indoor track and field was pushed back from the winter season to Fall II largely because of the lack of facility access. Facilities must provide socially distant areas for teams and for athletes to take mask breaks. Players must refrain from huddling or high fives.

Only every other lane will be used for sprints and hurdles, so four athletes can run on an eight-lane track. Starting blocks aren’t allowed.

In longer events, teams will limit to one athlete per lane per heat at the start then use two- or three-turn staggers. Distance events like the mile and two-mile will have staggered starts, as well.

For sports that were contested in some places during the fall like field hockey and soccer, there are some altered modifications from the fall season. Field hockey will still be seven on seven, but penalty corners are now allowed.

Soccer will return to halves rather than quarters, and masks must be worn at all times. Headers and placing hands on an opposing team’s players are still fouls and will result in free kicks.

Volleyball eliminated the three-foot line on each side of the net that players must stay behind. Balls will be washed between sets rather than between points. Game day rosters are limited to 15 athletes.

Some schools have chosen to delay winter sports into the Fall II window, and they will follow the same modifications approved before the winter season.

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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