When the last local sports roundup appeared in this space on March 18, a state of emergency had just been declared in Vermont and sports activities came to halt because of COVID-19.
We had no idea what was going to happen next. We hunkered down in our homes, got into the habit of wearing masks and sanitizing our hands all the time, and did what was needed to keep ourselves and our neighbors virus-free.
Six months later, we can justifiably be proud of what we accomplished. By nearly every metric, Vermont is tops in fighting the coronavirus.
Life is still not back to “normal,” but it is normal enough that sports activities are set to resume this fall, albeit in a masked, sanitized, and socially distant way.
One such sign came on Sept. 3, when the Brattleboro Senior Bowling League opened its fall season.
The league, which meets Thursdays at Brattleboro Bowl on Putney Road, suspended the remainder of the winter season on March 13 and canceled its spring/summer season.
But health concerns have abated enough so that the Senior League decided to give it a go this fall. On the opening morning, only 23 bowlers turned out, about one-third of the normal turn-out for a Thursday.
“We’re really glad to be here,” said league secretary Nancy Dalzell. “A lot of us haven’t left the house except to go grocery shopping.”
Everyone wore masks and there was one empty lane in-between bowlers. Air hugs replaced high-fives as bowlers kept their distance. But even six feet apart, the fun and camaraderie of a morning at the lanes was still in force.
Team 7 (5-0) leads the league after the first week, followed by Team 3 (4.5-0.5), Team 1 and Team 6 4-1, Team 2 and Team 5 (1-4), and Team 4 (0.5-4.5).
Carole Frizzell had the women’s high handicap game (247) and series (681), while Robert Rigby had the men’s high handicap game (250) and Norm Corliss had the high handicap series (678). Team 4 had the high team handicap game (874), while Team 3 had the high handicap series (2,499).
In scratch scoring, Rigby rolled a 245 to complete a 610 series to lead the men. Two men had a 500-plus series: Corriveau (584) and Jerry Dunham (517). Bowlers with 190-plus games included Corriveau (215) and Dunham (194).
Carole Frizzell rolled a 189 as part of her high scratch series of 507 to lead the women, while Nancy Dalzell had a 188 game.
Dalzell says the league is looking for more bowlers of all abilities over age 55 to join them on Thursday mornings. If you’re interested, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you ready for some touch football?
• With schools reopening this week, formal practices can begin for the fall high school sports season in Vermont.
Soccer, field hockey, and cross-country will look pretty much the same, even with all the COVID-19 prevention protocols. Barring any setbacks, these sports will begin play on Sept. 18 or 21, with schedules still to be determined.
But football is going to be vastly different this fall. That’s because instead of 11-on-11 tackle football, Vermont schools will be playing 7-on-7 touch football.
What will it look like? According to the rules set by the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA), there will be no running plays. All offensive plays will be forward passes, and quarterbacks will be allowed up to four seconds to throw the ball on each down.
If a quarterback does not throw the ball in the allotted time, the ball returns to the original line of scrimmage with a loss of down.
Everyone is eligible to catch a pass on offense, except for the center who snaps the ball to the quarterback. The team on offense has 40 seconds to snap the ball once the previous play ends and 25 seconds after an administrative stoppage.
There will be no blocking or tackling. Defenders will have to stop the forward progress of a receiver who catches the ball by touching him with one or both hands. Players will still wear helmets. No pads are required, but everyone will need to wear face masks on and off the field.
Field goal attempts are allowed, as are punts. Scoring will be the same — six points for a touchdown, with one point for a point-after-kick from the 5-yard line or two points for a successful point-after pass attempt from the 10-yard line.
The length of the game will be different, with four 15-minute quarters under a running clock that starts after the opening kickoff of each half. Everyone will get a chance to play, with linemen on the field in the first and third quarters and wide receivers and running backs in the second and fourth quarters.
With no physical contact (aside from touching) allowed in the 7-on-7 game, speed and finesse is more important than strength and aggressiveness. Teams will rise and fall based on the arms of their quarterbacks and the pass-catching skills of everyone else on the roster.
• The schedule is going to be a lot different too. Instead of playing normal divisional schedules, the VPA divided up the football schools into four geographical regions — Burlington, St. Johnsbury, Rutland, and Hartford — and teams will play only against other teams in their region.
Brattleboro and Bellows Falls are both in the Hartford region, along with Hartford, Springfield, Windsor and Woodstock. This alignment means no long road trips to northern Vermont this fall for BF and Brattleboro.
Varsity teams will play a nine-game schedule with games twice a week, with games on Tuesday and Wednesdays, and Fridays and Saturdays.
If the preseason practices go well, the football season will start on Friday, Sept. 25, with Brattleboro at Springfield for a 7 p.m. game. On Saturday, Sept. 26, at 1 p.m., Bellows Falls will start its season at home when they host Woodstock at Hadley Field.
Bellows Falls and Brattleboro will play each other twice this year, at Natowich Field on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m., and at Hadley Field on Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.
Brattleboro will play Windsor twice (Sept. 30 and Oct. 2), Woodstock twice (Oct. 6 and 9), and Hartford once (Oct. 20). The only out-of-region game on Brattleboro’s schedule will be the season finale on Oct. 23 at 7 p.m., when they host Mount Anthony (which is playing in the Rutland region this season) for the annual Elwell Trophy showdown at Natowich Field.
Bellows Falls will play Hartford twice (Sept. 30 and Oct. 2), Windsor twice (Oct. 7 and 10), and Springfield twice (Oct. 20 and 24).
There will be no postseason, thus depriving Brattleboro of the opportunity to defend the Division II state title it won in 2019.
• With a 150-person cap on attendance at games, you may want to stay at home and listen to the action. WTSA will again be broadcasting all of Brattleboro’s football games on 1450 AM and 99.5 FM.
Tim Johnson will handle all the announcing chores this season. The regular play-by-play announcer, Bill Holliday, will be taking this season off.
Northeast Sports Network (www.nsnsports.net) also plans to be live-streaming high school football games this fall, and is expected to announce its schedule in another week or so.
COVID-19 alters the ski season
• We may be months away from winter, but COVID-19 is already affecting winter sports in Vermont.
Killington announced on Aug. 20 that the annual women’s Alpine World Cup race scheduled for Nov. 28 and 29 was canceled.
It was part of a decision by the International Ski Federation (FIS) to restrict the men’s and women’s Alpine World Cup to European venues for the 2020-21 season, and to cancel scheduled events in North America because of COVID-19 concerns.
Fortunately, if the pandemic subsides in 2021, the Killington women’s race is likely to be back on the World Cup schedule and is tentatively set for Nov. 27 and 28, 2021.
• As for Mount Snow in West Dover and Okemo in Ludlow, they have already announced plans to open for the 2020-21 season. Mount Snow is shooting for a Nov. 14 opening, while Okemo hopes to open on Nov. 21.
But it won’t be business as usual. Access to both resorts will be by reservation only, with prioritized access for skiers and snowboarders with season passes. Masking and social distancing guidelines will also be in effect.
• Magic Mountain in Londonderry lowered its season pass prices for early-bird purchasers and has expanded its discounted service pass for military personnel to also include first responders, nurses, and ER/ICU doctors. They have not increased their pass prices, and will provide full credit toward a 2021-22 season pass if the resort has to shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions.
• Stratton Mountain Resort is offering a similar guarantee, allowing pass holders to defer the use of their 2020-21 passes and give them credit toward a similar pass for the 2021-22 season.