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53-year Broncos Sunday streak could stop here

State mandates leave Seaford program in danger of losing football Sundays

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For 53 straight seasons, Sundays in Seaford were for football. Not just on the television watching your favorite NFL team, but at Seamans Neck Park, watching the Long Island Broncos youth football organization strap on the blue and orange and take the field, one team after another, as the sun faded beyond the boundaries of the park that has been home to the program for more than a half century.

More than just the results on the field, it was the neighborly feel that a typical fall Broncos Sunday brought that attracted so many Seaford families to the program.

“Being a part of the Broncos is special. It creates childhood memories and friendships,” said Broncos Vice President Tim Fox, 41, of Seaford. “For the kids, each game is like a Super Bowl for them. Each Sunday is a tremendous event and it really brings the community together. After games, most kids stick around and watch the other games, and we do barbecues. Sundays in the fall are always a lot of fun, and it’s exciting to see your kid out here having fun too.”

As of Aug. 24, though, that 53-year stretch of fall fun may face a delay of game, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted on Monday: “Statewide, lower-risk sports (e.g. tennis & soccer) may practice & play beginning Sept. 21. No travel games or practice permitted outside school’s region or neighboring regions until Oct. 19. Full-contact sports can practice but aren’t authorized to compete.”

Since the beginning of August, the Broncos have been hosting speed and agility clinics. Children age 5 through 11 can participate. There are no helmets, pads, gloves or even footballs. The Nassau County Youth Football League (NCYFL) has not yet cleared Long Island programs to begin football-related activities.

“We want to give them a month of conditioning. We have got to get them in shape for football if we are going to play,” Fox said. “Gov. Cuomo’s announcement just left us with more questions than answers. Our status is in limbo right now.”

The young players have been doing cardio exercises focused on quick feet and bursts of speed, but Fox understands that could be tedious for a child who does not know when his season could start.

The Broncos’ practice season usually starts on Aug., 1 and its season just after Labor Day. Fox said that without a set start date for the season, the program, which is a not-for-profit organization, cannot order this year’s equipment, call on sponsors and isn’t even taking payments from parents yet. Everything is up in the air, according to Fox.

“I’m not sure if we will cancel practices at some point,” Fox said.

Although the Broncos have not heard an official date from the state or the NCYFL, it has more or less given itself a timetable for the season to start, so that the program’s players can play in the safest environment possible.

“We’re looking at the end of September, maybe the first week of October,” Fox said. “If by the third week in September we don’t get an answer, it might be too difficult to get the jerseys, the equipment, and it would be hard to give them that full experience.”

He also went on to say that the longer a decision is made on when competitive games can be played again, the less likely coaches and the program will be comfortable sending players out if they haven’t properly learned the fundamentals of how to tackle safely.

“If the team isn’t ready, they won’t play. Especially for the 5 and 6-year-olds, it is imperative to learn the proper way to play,” Fox said. “We would go off of what the coaches assessments are, I wouldn’t put them in there if they weren’t ready. It could be an issue. We will go by the guidelines. If we don’t get the amount of practices in that they deem necessary to play safe, they won’t play till they learn proper technique.”

Fox and the Broncos are now waiting for word back from the NCYFL. As part of the Broncos organization, the cheerleading program will be practicing, but competition is not looking likely for this year either. This would affect the annual Seaford Broncos Football and Cheer Awards Dinner hosted after the conclusion of both seasons. “No funding, no season, no awards, that’s how that would go,” Fox said on if the season were to be canceled.

As for a possible push to play in the spring, Fox does not feel confident in that alternative either. Because the Broncos share Seamans Neck Park’s Field 2 with other sports programs, especially out of season, availability would be very difficult to arrange. Fox is hoping that the state and the NCYFL will give him a date soon, or else the 53 straight ext season of Bronco football will have to be postponed at least until September 2021.

“There has never been a season where they didn’t have it,” Fox said. “Nassau County as a whole, Seaford, this would be unprecedented.”