Nassau County high school football, slated to begin practice March 1 of 2021, announced it will play six regular-season games, down from the standard eight, and also eliminate scrimmages and one round of playoffs.
In addition, no Long Island championships will be played against Suffolk County, which will conduct only five regular-season games.
“We’re preparing for the season as if it’s going to happen and will have some things to address such as transportation and spectators as we get closer to March,” said Nassau football coordinator Matt McLees, who noted the decision to pass on the LICs was made with all 50 programs in mind. “We like the model we’re using,” he added. “It was most important to play six meaningful regular-season games above all else. With the power rankings we use, at least six games are necessary.”
Playing six games, as opposed to five, also gives each team three home games and three road games, instead of an unbalanced schedule, McLees explained. “The football committee deserves a lot of credit for the effort they put in,” he said. “In the end, all the decisions will benefit hundreds and hundreds of kids.”
The season is scheduled to kick off Saturday, March 13, though McLees said some games could be played on the 12th if teams wanted to give up a day of practice. Freeport (Conference I), Garden City (II), Plainedge (III) and Seaford (IV) are the defending county champions. Freeport, which has captured back-to-back Long Island Class I titles, is the only one of the four not seeded No. 1 after losing some key contributors who transferred out of state to play this fall. Oceanside is the top seed in Conference I and will open on the road against Farmingdale.
“I think the six games is good,” Oceanside head coach Rob Blount said. “It appeals to the majority of schools, rather than catering to the top of each conference with more playoff games. I hope we can get the season in. A small percentage of kids will continue to play in college, but most will play their last games. It’s something they will cherish for the rest of their lives.”
Garden City, which has won four straight county crowns, opens at Carey. MacArthur, the 2019 runners-up in Conference II, is seeded second and will take on South Side in the opener. Other local matchups in Week 1 include Calhoun at Mepham, Valley Stream Central at Long Beach, and Kennedy at Elmont.
“It’s always fun lining up against one of the other teams in our district,” Mepham head coach Anthony Cracco said. “We didn’t have the opportunity to play either of the Bellmore-Merrick teams last year so our seniors are really looking forward to it.”
Plainedge, which nipped Freeport in the 2019 Rutgers Cup voting, kicks off at Lynbrook. Seaford opens at North Shore.
The regular season is scheduled to conclude Saturday, April 17. The number of playoff teams in each of Nassau’s four conferences has been cut in half, from eight to four. The semifinals are scheduled for April 24, followed by the county championship games May 1-2.
Eight teams switched conferences
Of the eight programs taking on new conference rivals for the upcoming season, half were part of Conference III a year ago. Runner-up South Side jumps to Conference II, while perennial powers Wantagh and Lawrence, along with North Shore, bounced to Conference IV. New to Conference III are Manhasset and Valley Stream South. East Meadow and Herricks are back in familiar stomping grounds in Conference I after competing in Conference II in 2019.
JV remains on Saturday mornings
The majority of Nassau’s junior varsity football games in 2018 kicked off Monday afternoons, but last year the action returned to traditional Saturday mornings at the opposite location of that day’s varsity game. It’ll remain that way in 2021. 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.
10 Games To Watch
March 13: Garden City at Carey
March 13: Plainedge at Lynbrook
March 13: MacArthur at
March 20: Lawrence at Seaford
March 27: Freeport at Oceanside
March 27: Elmont at V.S. Central
March 27: West Hemp. at Clarke
April 10: Mepham at Carey
April 10: Freeport at Baldwin
April 17: Wantagh at Seaford