Shelton school board gives nod to 7v7 football

High school football action between Shelton and West Haven in Shelton, Conn., on Friday Sept. 13, 2019.

High school football action between Shelton and West Haven in Shelton, Conn., on Friday Sept. 13, 2019.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — The high school football team can participate in 7 on 7 games this fall if the Southern Connecticut Conference chooses to go in that direction.

The Board of Education at its meeting this week approved allowing the smaller size playing model, which has the backing of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Department of Public Health and, reluctantly, the CIAC.

“There is a group of full-time athletic directors who are currently working on a plan to present a 7v7 SCC option,” athletic director John Niski said. "I have communicated Shelton's interest in participating.”

The board, however, tabled action on a request from the Shelton Quarterback Club for the district to allow use of its football equipment and provide a donation to the school’s football team as it hopes to participate in an independent league for traditional football play.

Questions over liability, and with no specific donation request, forced the board to table talk of assisting the football team to buck CIAC and state health department rulings against full contact football.

Club members, with the backing of Mayor Mark Lauretti, have received permission to play games at Finn Stadium which is controlled by the city.

City corporation counsel Fran Stanek told the school board that liability issues exist with allowing use of the district’s equipment and stadium in such a league, which would be run similar to a premiere league in soccer or lacrosse, not under the control of the city or school district.

Club members in attendance Wednesday said each player would pay to participate in the league but allowing use of the equipment would save each player some $400. Club members also asked for a donation from the board but did not seek a specific amount.

The high school football coaches would coach the players if participating in an independent league, club members stated.

Niski said there is a significant difference between independent leagues such as AAU baseball or travel soccer, and what health officials have said is the "low-risk activity" 7v7 football.

Independent leagues, he said, are operated by outside, small group entities and players register on their own and are responsible for their own expenses.

“The 7v7 option is the most widely explored concept in the SCC and throughout the state,” Niski said. “We have received some guidance from the CIAC on how to best run these activities, and I believe that it will be very organized and will provide a good experience for the players and families. Because of the nature of the activity, it is labeled as a ‘low risk’ activity and has very little liability or expense involved for either the schools or the individual players and teams.”

Niski said the 7v7 plans will be similar to the rules used in the winter passing leagues. The plans would also include some type of "lineman challenge" which will include the players used primarily as linemen in traditional football.

“Preliminary ideas include different strength challenges that will be awarded yardage for the winning contest,” said Niski, such as flipping tires and tug of war.

“Hopefully the players will be receptive to it, and there will be good participation from throughout the league,” Niski said. “It is clearly not the same, or even close, but these boys deserve to be able to participate in something ... especially the seniors.”