On Aug. 19, all Nassau County public high school varsity football programs will begin preparations for the upcoming season, scheduled to open Friday, Sept. 13 with 10 games under the lights.
“We’re starting practice on the first day we’re allowed,” Section VIII football coordinator Matt McLees said. “Last year we started a week later than usual and the decision received mixed reviews.”
Teams will now have over a full month to prepare for kickoff. Game scrimmages will take place around Sept. 6-7.
Freeport (Conference I), Garden City (II), Plainedge (III) and Cold Spring Harbor (IV) won county titles in 2018. All four defending champions are seeded No. 1 this season. Freeport, which captured the Rutgers Cup, opens on the road against Port Washington before playing three of its next four at home. A rematch of the past two county championship games takes place in Week 4 against visiting Oceanside. The Red Devils also host rival Baldwin to open the second half of the season.
Garden City, which won the Rutgers Cup in 2016 and ‘17, opens at home against Long Beach and also hosts Carey in Week 3 in rematch of last year’s county final. Plainedge kicks off on the road versus conference newcomer Mineola, and closes out the opening month against Wantagh at home in a rematch of last year’s title game. Cold Spring Harbor opens at home against Carle Place.
No relief for lower seeds
Lower-ranked teams will no longer see relief in their schedules and play eight different opponents once during the regular season. Previously, in 14-team conferences, teams seeded at the bottom would face the No. 13 and 12 seeds twice apiece, and play seeds 8 through 11 once apiece. No. 13 also faced No. 11 twice. Now, the No. 14 seed will face seeds 10, 7, 11, 13, 8, 12, 6 and 9, in that order.
“Based on the lopsided score policy we put in place three years ago and the improvement of some programs, we felt it’s best served for all the teams to not have relief games built in,” McLees explained. “It has always been the goal to have every team play eight different opponents.”
Four programs switch conferences
Four programs have switched conferences for the upcoming season, which features a pair of 12-team divisions and a pair of 14-team setups. Valley Stream South, which has bounced around in recent history, moves from Conference III to IV, essentially swapping spots with Mineola. South is seeded No. 6 in the 12-team Conference IV, while Mineola is seeded No. 9 out of 14 teams in III. Longtime Conference I leading contender East Meadow will compete in Conference II and is seeded fourth. Long Beach, another program bouncing back and forth in recent years, also moves to II from I.
JV back to Saturday mornings
The majority of Nassau’s JV football games in 2018 kicked off Monday afternoons, but McLees said they’re back to the traditional Saturday mornings at the opposite location of that day’s varsity game. At least five schools were unable to field JV squads a year ago. Should any freshmen, sophomores or juniors not step on the JV field on a particular Saturday morning, they would be eligible to play in the varsity game. “There’s also a mechanism in place where if both schools agree to move the JV game to Monday afternoon, they can do so,” McLees said.