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Long Island Catholic high schools on board with playing flag football

St. Anthony's head coach Joe Minucci signals to

St. Anthony's head coach Joe Minucci signals to his players during a game last September at MetLife Stadium. Credit: George McNish

All six of the Long Island Catholic high schools that play traditional tackle football have opted to participate in the CHSFL’s new 7-on-7 flag football league, according to league president Chris Hardardt. The high school teams are approved by the state CHSAA to begin practicing on Monday and competition for an approximately five-game season kicks off on Oct. 10.

"We saw a lot to like about this option. First and foremost, we want our students to have an opportunity to play," St. Anthony’s athletic director and football coach Joe Minucci said. "There will also be the opportunity for players to showcase their skills for recruiting, which is very important. More than half the country is playing [tackle] football this fall and that could leave the athletes in our area at a recruiting disadvantage. . . . This is a way to possibly [negate] the disadvantage."

"The techniques for coaching and teaching will still work well in this setting," Kellenberg athletic director John Fechtmann said. "We saw getting those as a positive for our students."

Flag football was classified by the state as moderate risk for COVID-19 while tackle football is high risk. All may begin practices on Monday, though high-risk fall sports – including boys and girls volleyball and competitive cheerleading – are restricted to low-contact or no-contact activities. Tackle football currently may not be played in New York State until after December.

"I was worried when they moved the season because I’m thinking about a football scholarship," St. Anthony’s senior defensive back Dante Antoine said. "Now we’re playing 7-on-7 and it will give us film and a way for coaches to see us and evaluate us. Film can be a big part of recruiting."

Antoine also pointed out the signing day for national letters of intent is before the new March start date for tackle football, so flag football might be a last chance to showcase a player’s talents.

The 7-on-7 games is similar to the traditional game in that touchdowns are still worth six points, conversions can be for one or two points and safeties count for two points. In the CHSFL, there will be no line play with the exception of a center to snap the ball. There is no rushing and quarterbacks have four seconds to throw, timed by officials.The offense is made up primarily of so-called ‘skill position’ players. The defenses are geared toward speed, rather than strength.

"It’ll be a fast brand of football," Antoine said. "And it means we’ll be practicing together. It could help us when the regular season starts next year."

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