Eliminating scrimmages and one round of playoffs are the only changes so far in place for Nassau County football, which moved 2020 season kickoff plans to Saturday, Oct. 3 after the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) announced a monthlong delay for fall sports on July 16.
If no alternative guidance is received from the NYSPHSAA COVID-19 Task Force, fall athletes will begin practicing Monday, Sept. 21, four weeks later than the original date of Aug. 24. For football, 10 practices are mandatory before games can be played.
“I’m actually happy for the delay,” said Section VIII football coordinator Matt McLees, who noted keeping the regular season schedule intact was a priority. “I thought the news would have been worse,” he added. “I don’t think we are out of the woods yet though for the fall. But for now, we have hope.”
The original opening date for games was Thursday, Sept. 17. Freeport (Conference I), Garden City (II), Plainedge (III) and Seaford (IV) are the defending county champions. All four are seeded No. 1 in their respective conferences for the upcoming season. Freeport, which has captured back-to-back Long Island Class I titles, opens at home against Uniondale.
“The fact we’re even talking about having a season is pretty positive, but nobody knows anything for sure,” said Baldwin head coach Steve Carroll, whose 10th-seeded Bruins are scheduled to open the Conference I campaign at home against Hicksville. “As a coach, I’d love to see a season happen as long as everyone can be safe doing it,” he added.
Oceanside, seeded No. 2 behind Freeport, will host Hempstead in Week 1. East Meadow, back in the top conference after one season in II, travels to Massapequa.
“As a state we’ve done a great job getting the Covid numbers down,” Oceanside head coach Rob Blount said. “I’m optimistic we can play in the fall, but I can also see them pushing things to 2021.”
Garden City, which has won four straight county crowns, opens at New Hyde Park. MacArthur, the 2019 runners-up in Conference II, is seeded second and will visit Elmont in the opener. Other local Week 1 matchups in the conference has No. 3 Carey hosting No. 7 Sewanhaka, fourth-seeded South Side hosting No. 6 Valley Stream Central, No. 5 Mepham at home against No. 12 Kennedy, and No. 11 Calhoun visiting No. 10 Long Beach.
“I’m glad the fall season is still a possibility,” said VSC head coach Mike Rubino, who conducts Zoom meetings with his players four days a week. “I’m happy New York State is letting the process play out and didn’t jump to any conclusions.”
Plainedge, which nipped Freeport in the 2019 Rutgers Cup voting, kicks off at Division. Seaford opens at home against Cold Spring Harbor in a battle of the past two Conference IV champs.
McLees said the regular season would conclude Saturday, Nov. 21, and the number of playoff teams in each of Nassau’s four conferences has been cut in half, from eight to four. The semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 26-28, followed by the county championship games Dec. 5-6. The L.I. title games will not be held.
Eight teams switch conferences
Of the eight programs taking on new conference rivals in 2020, half were part of Conference III a year ago. Runner-up South Side jumps to Conference II, while perennial powers Wantagh and Lawrence, along with North Shore, bounced to Conference IV. New to Conference III are Manhasset and Valley Stream South. East Meadow and Herricks are back in familiar stomping grounds in Conference I after competing in Conference II in 2019.
JV remains on Saturday mornings
The majority of Nassau’s junior varsity football games in 2018 kicked off Monday afternoons, but last year the action returned to traditional Saturday mornings at the opposite location of that day’s varsity game. It’ll remain that way for 2020. Should any freshmen, sophomores or juniors not step on the JV field on a particular Saturday morning, they would be eligible to play in the varsity game. “There’s also a mechanism in place where if both schools agree to move the JV game to Monday afternoon, they can do so,” McLees said.
10 Games To Watch
Oct. 3: Roosevelt at Lynbrook
Oct. 3: V.S. Central at South Side
Oct. 10: Lawrence at Seaford
Oct. 17: Baldwin at Oceanside
Oct. 24: MacArthur at Garden City
Oct. 24: East Rockaway at Malverne
Oct. 31: North Shore at Wantagh
Nov. 7: Garden City at Carey
Nov. 14: Oceanside at Freeport
Nov. 14: Wantagh at Seaford