There’s a foot of snow on the oval that surrounds Sabourin Field. You’ll need a shovel to get to the stands, let alone find a seat. And it’s going to be a while before the grills fire up next to the POMS snack shack.
But the gridiron itself is green and dry – and ready for high school football practice to begin next Monday.
The pandemic-induced “Fall II” season is actually going to take place, with safety modifications that have become routine for many student-athletes.
Head Coach Tom Tone said that thanks to the quality of the synthetic turf on the field, his Buccaneers will be practicing outside starting Monday, getting ready for a seven-week schedule that begins the weekend of March 12-14.
Football was postponed from its usual fall timetable so medical and school officials could ensure a safe environment. And while detailed protocols have been issued by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, Tone pointed out that “when we are talking about actual game play, there’s really not anything significantly different.”
Most of the precautions involve facemasks and distancing on the sidelines and on school buses, limits on huddling and total numbers on the field, and “logistical stuff in the locker room,” Tone said. He pointed out that interscholastic football took place in 30 states “and no outbreaks were tied to play.”
Meanwhile, “The Bedford community has been doing a great job” managing the virus, said the coach, who is also a math teacher at BHS.
The coach, beginning his fourth year a BHS, said he is trying to replicate the usual leadup to the season as best he can, although August workouts don’t have to compete with classroom time.
The drills will take place outside. “You can’t simulate football practice inside,” he said, acknowledging that “the first couple of weeks – the first month – is going to be interesting due to the amount of snow you could get.” But he pointed out that there will be significantly more daylight than in the latter part of the fall season.
“We have to be very mindful that it could be very cold,” the coach added. “In our practices, we try to keep the kids moving.” He said some instruction can be provided with “the technology we have been using in school” rather than “standing around in the cold trying to teach.”
The synthetic turf makes all the difference, he said, noting that some schools can’t plow their artificial surfaces because of warranty or insurance considerations.
The schedule is still “a work in progress,” Coach Tone said. “We know who we are playing but the dates haven’t been finalized.” He observed that in 2019, there were no night games until November because of the threat of mosquito-borne illness.
The Dual County League small schools for football are Bedford, Weston, Wayland, Boston Latin, and Cambridge Rindge and Latin, he said. There will be at least one non-league game as well.
Tone said non-mandatory workouts have been ongoing since June. He said he told the players “exactly what I knew: we can work out, there are things we can do to be part of the team, things you can do to get individually better.”
Now that the season looks like an actuality, student-athletes are registering to play, and “our numbers are about what they have been,” the coach reported, with returnees as well as some new players.
He acknowledged that it is challenging because so many students are in school part-time under the hybrid model or even fully remote; “it’s not as easy as it was going down to the cafeteria” to find prospects. There have been parent meetings to help get the word out.
Players will select 2021 captains with a vote at the end of pre-season training, the coach said, as that always has been his practice.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763