By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Change to high school sports was inevitable when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. This fall, we will see sports such as soccer and field hockey have a completely different look as players and coaches will be required to wear masks at all times.
Field hockey will be moving from its normal 11-on-11 to seven-on-seven. Boys and girls soccer will be restricting players from throwing in and heading the ball, and players are being coached and encouraged to socially distance while playing defense.
Conferences around the state have begun postponing fall athletic seasons for certain sports until February of 2021. The MIAA has dubbed the period between February 2021 and April 2021 as the "Fall II Floating Season." The number of sports being moved to Fall II has become dependent on the conference. For example, the South Coast Conference (Somerset-Berkley, Dighton-Rehobeth, Bourne, Wareham, etc) has moved all fall sports to the Fall II season, while the Tri-Valley League has opted to play sports such as soccer and field hockey in September and October, with football being pushed back to Fall II.
On Thursday, the Bay State Conference (BSC) released an updated schedule for fall sports. Sports such as soccer, field hockey, cross-country and golf will begin on September 17. However, the conference's athletic directors voted to push sports such as football, dance, cheer and volleyball to Fall II due to field and gym limitations. The Bay State Conference announced the news on its Twitter page.
The conference's AD's also voted to continue restricting out-of-season coaching and contact for sports moved to the Fall II season, meaning players will only be allowed limited interaction time with their coaches until the official Fall II start date.
So what does this mean specifically in regards to Hometown Weekly BSC schools Walpole and Needham? Well, for one, it means that Walpole and Needham High School varsity field hockey will not have to play Somerset-Berkley in the state tournament this fall (assuming there is one). As many remember, the Porkers fell to SB each of the last two seasons in the Division I state tournament. Somerset-Berkley has won each of the last two state championships with their two leading scorers being boys, which has brought about some backlash and controversy.
Needham boys and girls soccer, annually two of the top programs in the state, will still have a chance to compete for a state championship this fall, along with Walpole's boys and girls soccer teams.
The rivalry between Walpole and Needham High football also remains alive. The game has decided the fate of the Herget Division twice in the last three years. That trend should continue when the Fall II season kicks off in February. Football games will still have members of the cheer and dance teams present, as both of those sports will also be in season during Fall II. Walpole and Needham girls volleyball will also both get a shot at competing for a state championship during Fall II.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Instagram and Twitter handles @flano0.