Football returns to normalcy as restrictions are lifted



The varsity football team walks off the field at an away game together. The team has made great strides both in team building and in practices. As the limitations the pandemic brought are repealed, the team has regained some of their prior freedom at practices.

Before the start of the Fall 2021 season, the football team had not practiced as a full team in over two years. Now, with the fall season coming to a close, the team is united and a sense of community and unity can be visibly seen both on and off the field.

Last year, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) imposed a myriad of rules and restrictions on sports teams due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One year later, many of these restrictions have been lifted for the outdoor setting, such as the outdoor mask requirement and the player limit at practices or games. The team has taken advantage of the repeal of restrictions and is looking forward to a bright future.

Chad Hunte, who is the head coach of the varsity football team, said that the biggest difference this season is that the team is much more unified.

“I think the biggest difference is being able to have all of our kids practice together. Last year, we had to split it up between pretty much freshmen and sophomores on one team, and then we had like a varsity team with a few sophomores on it,” Hunte said. “It’s just nice to have everyone practice together. There was pretty much no interaction between those two teams, trying to keep everyone distanced and safe, so that is a huge difference.”

Starting quarterback and sophomore Josh Karp said that in addition to being able to practice with everyone, it is easier to do certain drills and workouts now that the outdoor mask restriction has been lifted.

“It’s a lot easier to condition and get a lot more reps with these masks off,” Karp said. “I think another great thing is being able to have more contact, especially because during COVID-19 times it was hard to practice certain stuff, so now we have a lot more freedom to do different drills and all that.”

Captain and senior Camryn Lezama said that the team has been able to bond as a result of the repeal of some restrictions.

“I feel like without restrictions, it’s definitely a lot easier to have time together. We’ve been able to do more weight lifts and things like that outside, so we’ve definitely been able to work on our team chemistry,” Lezama said. “We’ve definitely had a lot more bonding time together and have spent a lot more like time together since the restrictions have been lifted.”

In addition to different rules than last year, the team has also adjusted to changes within their team. Karp said that it wasn’t easy to assume the starting quarterback role after the previous quarterback, Oskar Baldwin, graduated.

“I think that for me, a big thing has just been trying to kind of become a leader and act almost like I’m older than I am,” Karp said. “I mean of course it’s difficult coming after a senior quarterback, and Oscar was a great leader, so I had to come in and fill his shoes. I think of course I’m still working on my leadership, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job so far of really bringing these guys together.”

Hunte also said that Karp is extremely hard working and talented and has made a typically difficult transition much easier on himself and his teammates.

“It’s normally a challenge, but Karp is unbelievable. Especially as a sophomore, it’s very rare to have a kid that young start. He did a lot of rapid reps and repetitions of playing football. He’s come in and he has been unbelievable. He works so hard to understand the offense and be a leader,” Hunte said. “He’s a special player and, to me, one of, if not the, best quarterback to play.”

Karp said that he expects the football program to excel in the future and is dedicated to making sure the whole team is working hard to improve during the offseason.

“I think that we’re gonna be a great team, but one thing that kind of goes into that is that guys need to be able to put in the work in the offseason,” Karp said. “One big thing for me is that, coming out of the football season, I want to motivate guys to be like, ‘let’s put in work’ because you can’t just come into this season and expect to be good. You have to get your reps in and just try to get better, but I think the future is gonna be great, and I’m really excited for next season.”

Hunte said that the current varsity team is extremely young and talented, and he feels confident that they will be successful in the future.

“I’m feeling really positive and upbeat about it. We do have a lot of young pieces that will be back next year, but at the same time, our focus is this year. We have a lot of great seniors that have really been great leaders,” Hunte said. “They’ve shown what it takes to be successful, and I think these younger players really gravitated towards them and they understand that this is what’s gonna take moving forward. We all really feel great about the future of this program.”