MILO — The season will look different than years past with rule adjustments and a reduced schedule, but the Penquis Valley High School boys and girls soccer teams will be playing in 2020. The SAD 41 school board passed a motion to formally allow the Patriots squads to compete this fall during a Sept. 15 meeting conducted over Zoom.
“If you have been paying attention to the news, this has been a big topic around the state the last three or four weeks,” Superintendent Michael Wright said. He said safety protocols have been developed for soccer, the only fall high school sport at Penquis Valley.
“Most superintendents I have talked to are looking to move forward with fall sports within the guidelines,” he said.
Wright said practices began the day before with parents/guardians signing waivers for their athletes. “It is not a risk-free situation playing soccer or any other sport,” the superintendent said.
Athletic Director and boys soccer coach Jason Mills explained some of the modifications for soccer amidst COVID-19. “There’s no slide tackling,” Mills said, saying on throw-ins and corner kicks there will only be five players from each team permitted in the box.
“There’s a lot of things that take away from the game a bit but as I told the kids, it’s a chance to play,” he said.
“There’s no walls this year,” Mills said. He explained that around the 20-minute mark of each half, once there is a stoppage in play each team will take a break for water and hand sanitizer.
He said the bench areas will be expanded to allow team personnel to spread out. “Players on the bench will have a mask on, players on the field will not have a mask on,” Mills said. He said coaches and officials will have the protective facewear on, and players will be doing likewise during warm-ups.
Mills said the day prior was “the first time our kids have done anything sports-wise with the school since Feb. 5.” He said he could see the excitement on players’ faces as they returned for the first time since the end of the 2019-20 basketball season.
“We will have a schedule if you give us the green light tonight,” Mills told the school board. He said the schedule will feature games, perhaps eight, against nearby teams from Penobscot and/or Piscataquis County with specific opponents to be determined. There will be no postseason soccer in 2020.
With outdoor gatherings capped at 100, the possibility of spectators at Harris Field is still to be determined. Mills said players and coaches count toward the figure, so an idea is for players to be given several tickets apiece to allow for their families to be among the 100 permitted on site.
“We are going to do our best to stream games on the athletics Facebook page,” Mills said.
Despite the challenges the season poses, Mills said the day before he told his players they have already had one more practice than all of the spring. “If you get to play eight games that’s eight games more than last year,” he said.
Wright said over the summer the athletic fields were able to be used safely with no outbreaks. “I think outside does matter so it’s worth giving it a shot,” he said.
In other business, district administrators all thanked employees for their efforts in preparing for the new school year.
“A big shout out to staff, they have been working extra hard with extra hours,” Brownvilel Elementary Principal Carol Smith said.
Penquis Valley High School Principal Michael Rollins said he wanted to echo comments and “I want to thank the students too.”
“Every little wrinkle we run into we are able to smooth out and fix, including remote issues,” Rollins added.
Assistant Superintendent/Director of Curriculum Darcie Fournier thanked the principals “for working hard all summer long so we could come back safe.”
“I just want to thank everybody for getting school started,” Wright said.
Observer file photo/Stuart Hedstrom
IN OR OUT? — Penquis Valley’s Cymeria Robshaw — with classmate Camryn Rolfe (6) looking on — and Penobscot Valley’s Brianna Moon (23) and Emma Buck (1) fight for position on a header near the Howler goal during a 2017 contest in Milo. The Patriot boys and girls soccer teams will both be playing in 2020 as the SAD 41 directors gave formal approval to fall sports during the Sept. 15 board meeting.