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Home Sports High School Sports Abbott Tech, New Milford boys soccer teams thrilled to return to competition

Abbott Tech, New Milford boys soccer teams thrilled to return to competition

Abbott Tech, New Milford boys soccer teams thrilled to return to competition

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DANBURY — The first warning from the referee in the Abbott Tech-New Milford boys soccer match was not for a hand ball, tripping or offsides.

“Hey, you can’t spit,” the referee said. “No spitting on the field this season.”

The player apologized and the game went on.

Nearly seven months after the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference canceled its winter tournaments on March 9 due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of student-athletes across the state returned to competition Thursday, including the New Milford and Abbbott Tech boys soccer teams.

High school sports were finally back.

They looked different. Many were played in front of no spectators. Postgame handshakes, high-fives and team huddles were absent. Some players wore masks. Sidelines were spread out. Starts were staggered for cross country and some swimming meets were held virtually, with teams competing head-to-head from different venues.

But this long journey, which started with conditioning in cohorts of 10 on July 6, reached a destination many feared could not be navigated: actual interscholastic competition. The road back was not easy, nor will be the road ahead. Athletes endured a week of stoppage in August while the CIAC reviewed state Department of Health recommendations, before advancing to non-skill development training Aug. 29, full practices Sept. 21 and varsity events on Thursday.

Seasons will be shorter, with 12 events against opponents close in proximity played through the first week of November, potentially followed by a postseason experience to be determined. All is predicated on the state’s coronavirus numbers remaining low.

Thursday in Danbury, the players, coaches and referees were just happy to be on the field.

“The kids are thrilled,” New Milford coach Lou Pereira said. “The first few weeks when we could only play in the small pods was difficult for me to keep them motivated and difficult for the kids. Once we got out here, the kids are as happy as pie. The best part is the kids are listening. No parties, no going out and they are staying with our team. So far, they are doing that and that’s the key.”

Abbott Tech has decided not to allow fans at games to begin the season, so the game was played in front of empty bleachers.

A security guard at the gate turned away several fans before the game. Players standing on the sidelines wore masks.

Conditioning was a factor in the second half for Abbott Tech, with several players cramping up. Abbott Tech’s conditioning program was halted for two weeks after a spike in cases caused Danbury to shut down sports in August.

“They are loving it. They were missing it. We are two weeks behind because we started late due to the Danbury spikes (in COVID-19 cases) and we had to wait until athletics were cleared,” Abbott Tech coach Adrian Solis said. “Our fitness level is not there. We need to work on our fitness, but overall, I think the kids were loving it.”

The game on the field was largely the same other than referees staying a bit wider on the pitch than usual and the number of players in the walls on free kicks being limited to three players.

Abbott faded in the second half but came out hot, scoring the first goal of the season when Joseph Chunir found the back of the net.

After the initial burst from the Wolverines, New Milford controlled the game the rest of the way, breaking it open the second half.

New Milford got two goals each from James Bishop and Nate Cramer and another from Luis Chamale on a penalty kick to lead the Green Wave to a 5-1 win in South West Conference North action.

“That was our first game on and we were energetic. It was amazing, we were scoring goals left and right. I can’t be happier with this one,” New Milford senior James Bishop said.

“Because of the virus, we were not able to do anything half of the summer and then the other half we were not allowed to touch each other. We came into preseason off of nothing. I guess it’s all heart with this one.”

About Scott Ericson

Scott Ericson is a sports reporter for GameTimeCT based in Stamford. Email him at Sericson@stamfordadvocate.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @ericsonsports.

Please go to GametimeCT.com High School Sports to read full article.

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