The Huronia Stallions are gearing up for a return to the gridiron next month. Players from all over Simcoe County and Muskoka have been unable to play football since 2019 due to the constraints related to the pandemic.
Martino Di Sabatino, the Stallions president of football operations, said the organization is planning for a 2021 season, but need more clarification from the provincial government before they can move forward.
“We can have 10 people on the field, but we aren’t sure if that means one group of 10 people on the field or multiple groups of 10 people without coming into contact. Those are the kinds of answers we need to have before we can move forward,” Di Sabatino said.
During Step 2 of the province's current roadmap for re-opening, 25 people can train in a group, however, sports leagues aren’t permitted to start competition until July 23.
“We have contacted our local (MPP) to get some clarification. We are trying to have a season. We have players and parents who are itching to get going, we just need them to bear with us while we get more information,” Di Sabatino said.
With players being sidelined for the past two seasons Di Sabatino says some players have already missed out on their last chance to play organized football.
“It’s been difficult for us coaches and administrators to think of the kids who will potentially never play again for us or anyone else. The last couple of years could have been the last years for many players in our program,” he explained.
“In 2019 we finished off a really successful season and were looking forward to 2020, and a lot of kids played their last game without knowing it.”
The pandemic has also cost some Stallions players an opportunity at a scholarship, Di Sabatino says.
“There are players who were progressing really well before things got shut down, those kids potentially would have got a scholarship and some tuition paid, and a lot of those opportunities are gone now,” he said.
Di Sabatino remains hopeful that most of this football season will be played, and competitive senior players will still have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. The season usually kicks off on May 1, and worst-case scenario, Di Sabatino says the Stallions would be open to starting their season as late as September.
“We could run a fall program if we are unable to do anything this summer, and if we have to, we will transition to flag football," he said.
The Stallions are currently in the midst of planning a co-ed flag football program with the assumption that flag football may be allowed by the provincial government sooner than tackle football.
“We are just trying to figure out what’s best for the players and what we can offer them to experience the game of football while keeping in line with what the health protocols instruct us to do,” Di Sabatino said.
While flag football wouldn’t be ideal compared to tackle, it would still serve as a way to get players back on the field playing the game they love, Di Sabatino says.
“There are skills and drills that you can do with flag that are helpful (and) we can use flag football to teach some of the fundamentals of the game,” he said.
Registration for the Stallions 2021 season is now open and Di Sabatino encourages players to get signed up sooner rather than later here.
“We need to know numbers, we need to know if we even have enough to run a program,” he said.
“Whatever we can do, we will do, and if we can’t do anything we will give a full refund minus $50."