Mid-Wach leagues unified in playing fall sports

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Schools in the Mid-Wach leagues are “unified” in playing their now-condensed fall sports seasons in the traditional fall months; so, too, is St. Bernard’s.

However, Monty Tech, and most schools in the Colonial Athletic League, will not — and that does not necessarily mean the Bulldogs are automatically deferring to Fall II, either.

The MIAA deadline for opting into the Fall I season or deferring to Fall II was this past Thursday, following the MIAA Board of Directors’ approval of the four-season plan — which will extend the 2021 spring season to July 3 — two weeks ago.

Practices, training sessions, and tryouts are slated to begin on Friday, Sept. 18, with games and meets for cross country, golf, soccer and field hockey scheduled to start on Friday, Oct. 2.

Fitchburg athletic director Craig Antocci said Friday morning that the Mid-Wach — the predominant leagues north of Worcester — is unified in playing fall sports during the fall. Local ADs are now in the midst of prepping schedules, which includes a pod system where schools in the pod play against each other a set number of times.

Certain schools, however, do not offer all sports. Ayer Shirley Regional, for instance, does not have field hockey and the Narragansett Regional and Murdock boys’ soccer programs have merged via co-op, and those pods may be different from sport to sport.

It may also pit certain schools of unequal size against each other.

Ayer Shirley athletic director Steve Kendall said the pods will be released in the next week.

“With the pod system, it will help limit travel, limit exposure to other schools, and allow schools to compete against some schools they may not have traditionally competed against,” Kendall said. “Most importantly, it gives student-athletes the opportunity to compete while also giving them the opportunity to move and improve their social-emotional well-being.”

New St. Bernard’s AD Ryan Walsh said that his school’s schedules are still to be determined, and that the Bernies — which will compete in golf, girls’ soccer, and field hockey — could “potentially” play in a Mid-Wach pod.

“(We are) only playing schools in our geographic area,” Walsh said over text message Friday morning.

Monty Tech would have been in the same boat in terms of playing locally, but the school’s administration has decided to opt out of Fall I, according to longtime Bulldogs athletic director Dave Reid.

“It’s a complex situation,” Reid said Friday afternoon, noting Monty Tech’s hybrid learning scheme.

And while many other schools are going hybrid, Monty’s drawing area is vast.

“There wasn’t going to be transportation for afterschool activities (this fall), they’d have to go to practices on their own and get home on their own,” said Reid. “We have 18 towns. Participation levels would have been down.

“We’re definitely going to need transportation come Fall II, and that could be an issue, as well. I don’t know how we would get to Framingham, Marlboro, or Worcester. Other things could be in play, too.”

Those other things, of course, are potential uptick in positive COVID-19 cases throughout the district. But not only that, there is also the fact that Monty Tech’s home facility, Bulldog Field, and its surrounding fields, are grass fields that may not necessarily be playable come late February 2021, when the Fall II season is slated to begin.

“It will be awful hard to do with field conditions,” Reid said.

Monty Tech is one of six Central Mass. schools who will not play in Fall I. Southbridge (SWCL), Sutton (Dual Valley), and fellow Colonial schools Keefe Tech of Framingham, Abby Kelley Foster of Worcester, and Assabet Valley Tech of Marlboro have opted to defer their fall seasons to the floating season.

Colonial power Blackstone Valley Tech of Upton and Bay Path of Charlton, however, are playing in the traditional Fall I slot.

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