Close Contacts Force Monomoy, Nauset Football Teams To Pause

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: School Sports , Monomoy Regional High School , Football , Nauset High School

Monomoy football coach Larry Souza, middle, stops to talk to players during the team’s practice March 5 at MRHS in Harwich. The Sharks are scheduled to return to practice Saturday and then host Martha’s Vineyard on Monday after pausing their preseason preparations due to COVID-19 contact tracing. BRAD JOYAL PHOTO

The start of the high school football season will have to wait. Well, for two Lower Cape teams, anyway.

Both Monomoy and Nauset paused their preparation for the Fall II season after contact tracing determined members of each team has been in close contact with the COVID-19 virus. The pauses will have differing impacts for the two teams, however, as Monomoy doesn’t expect to miss any games while Nauset will miss its season opener.

The Sharks are scheduled to return to practice Saturday and then kick off their season against visiting Martha’s Vineyard at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.

“They can return back to football on Saturday,” Monomoy athletic director Karen Guillemette said. “They’ll be able to get a couple last practices in before the game. Timing wise, I feel like if it had to happen, this is probably the best time that it could’ve happened.”

That glass-half-full feeling about the timing of the news is shared at Nauset, despite the fact the Warriors won’t be able to play in their season opener, which was scheduled to take place against Barnstable this weekend.

Barnstable is another Cape and Islands League team dealing with COVID-19; it was also forced to stop practicing and will miss its first two games of the season.

Nauset coach Bruce Strunk said the team expects to return to practice March 22 and then host Falmouth for its season opener at noon March 27 in North Eastham.

“If this happened in the middle of the season, you’d be guaranteed to miss two games,” said Strunk. “We feel fortunate that we’ll still have a good portion of the season remaining when we return.”

Monomoy coach Larry Souza said his hope is that his players won’t have to miss any games.

“It’s very unfortunate, but we’re trying really hard to not miss a game,” said Souza, who also teaches technology and engineering at MRHS. “We’re going to get an opportunity to practice a little bit before we play and the team we’re facing knows the situation we’re in. I’ve talked to (Martha’s Vineyard coach) Don Herman over there and they understand, they’ve had COVID-related challenges in their athletic department this year, too.”

If for some reason Monday’s game is canceled, Souza said he feels it would be tough to reschedule because the Fall II season follows a condensed six-week schedule before spring sports begin.

“My personal opinion is that if we had to push it any further, we probably would have to cancel it because there’s not really much we can do with the timeline before the spring season,” he said.

Although Souza and Guillemette both acknowledged the team will have limited practice time before Monday’s season opener, Guillemette said she’s confident the team is well prepared after already having had a couple weeks of practice before the pause.

“We’ve been practicing for three weeks,” she said, “and hopefully the kids are staying in shape on their own this week. It’s not ideal, but it’s not really a concern either.”

Despite not being allowed to meet in person, the Sharks are still doing what they can to prepare for the Vineyarders. They are able to hold Zoom and Google meetings virtually, which provides them with an opportunity to stay connected while apart.

At Nauset, Strunk said the Warriors are going to return to their preparation as smoothly as possible. He also pointed out that in light of the news, he and the rest of the Nauset coaching staff will continue to follow protocols set forth by the school and the Cape and Islands League once the team is able to reconvene.

“It’s frustrating, but we’re doing what we can to keep our kids safe and our school safe,” he said. “We’re doing everything that you’re supposed to do across the board — we didn’t scrimmage off the Cape and we’ve been practicing the way we’re supposed to. That’s really all that we can try to do.”

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com