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Home Sports High School Sports Jeff Jacobs: The Connecticut quarterback who refuses to play 7 v. 7...

Jeff Jacobs: The Connecticut quarterback who refuses to play 7 v. 7 football

Brandon Fratta does not blast into a loud, defiant explanation why he will not compete in 7 v. 7 football this fall. The North Branford senior quarterback gives the impression that the thought of playing without his bigger, beefier brothers in front of him never crossed his mind.

“Honestly, it’s just naturally what I came to,” Fratta said. “Growing up and stuff, if it’s not everybody, you shouldn’t do it. I didn’t put much thought into it. I just started typing.”

So he typed 20 words into Twitter that he will not play without his offensive line and that 7 v. 7 “isn’t football.” A few days later, there are nearly 4,000 likes. Wow.

The young man has made his stand. The senior quarterback has shown his leadership. All for one. One for all.

The CIAC and the Department of Public Health and all the adults in the room have put high school athletes on a head-spinning, heart-dropping ride this summer. They’re playing. They’re not playing. They’re playing. They’re not playing. As it rests this Labor Day weekend, there is no 11 v. 11 football with the intention of trying 7 v. 7 this fall. For some absurd reason, football in the late winter/early spring is not officially being considered.

Fratta woke up Friday to a FaceTime call from one of his boys.

“There’s no football.”

“You’re lying.” Fratta answered.

He looked at the Twitter explosion.

It was not a lie.

There was a demonstration by players, coaches and parents Sunday at West Hartford. Chants of “Let Us Play” resounded. There were speakers. There will be a larger demonstration Wednesday at the state capitol to get everyone including Gov. Lamont to rethink the decision to stop football in the fall.

Fratta attended the rally. He stood toward the back with his eight teammates before the captains of teams were called up front. He will be there Wednesday, too.

“I thought it was great,” Fratta said. “A bunch of players from a bunch of different schools all trying to get the same thing, which in the end is right.”

There have been so many arguments and counter arguments over high school sports in this Year of COVID-19 that many are exhausted by it. Some are not. Words have turned contentious. Over this Labor Day weekend some of the words became so threatening that State Speaker/Berlin football coach Joe Aresimowicz had to plea to stop the nonsense.

Threats will guarantee only one thing. No sports.

There are numbers out there. No, not COVID-19 numbers. CIAC participation numbers from last school year. They are meaningful. A total of 12,569 kids, 7,064 boys, 5,505 girls, played soccer. A total of 6,347, 3,873 boys and 2,474 girls, ran cross country. A total of 2,320 girls swam and 3,195 girls played field hockey.

If those numbers hold, that’s 26,751 kids who the DPH is convinced can can play high school sports safely this fall. That’s a beautiful thing. If the CIAC can successfully convince the DPH that sufficient steps have been taken for girls volleyball, that would be 4,969 more. They’re all going to compete for team victories and personal accomplishments. Their participation counts every bit as much as the 8,863 who played football. No more. No less. With football fanatic communities and resulting media coverage sometimes we can forget that.

Yet at the same time, every one — every single one — of those football players, their leadership, their teamwork, their development, their mental health matters deeply. And sports can mean something different to each athlete.

That’s why I admire Brandon Fratta. He made a strong, immediate stand. Some will argue, he’s passing up a chance to enjoy himself. He will argue he is a football player, not a passing league player, and a captain of an entire team, not half of it.

Football is important to him. North Branford was going to have a strong team this year. Fratta used to play other sports, but as his high school career progressed, he focused on one. Playing quarterback is important to him. He’d love to get a chance to play in college. He wants to be a coach one day.

“I have a different feeling for football,” Fratta said. “I just connect with it differently. I’m intrigued with everything about it. The little things that lead up to the games, the season, the whole process.”

Fratta played on a 7 v. 7 travel team in the seventh grade. He has played every summer in high school with North Branford in the league in Wallingford at Sheehan High.

“It’s fun, a summer thing to get ready for the season,” Fratta said. “But it’s also fair because the linemen have their thing.

“I don’t see 7 v 7 as football at all. I see it as preparation and work. Yeah, it’s good work. But it’s not football. And it’s certainly not fair to the linemen.”

He has talked to his offensive lineman about his decision.

“They know I appreciate them,” Fratta said. “They already know how I feel about them.”

He talked to his dad, the reason he is a Minnesota Vikings fans. Dad was supportive and surprised by the overwhelming Twitter response. As of Sunday, he had not talked to his coach Mark Basil.

“Brandon is an excellent leader,” Basil said. “He leads by example. He’s a great motivator for the guys. He’s a two-time captain for me. He’s well-respected by his teammates and he has a strong voice among them. This whole thing just hit the other day and I know he’s going to come off like all the other kids will: ‘7 on 7 is a joke and it’s not for me.’ I get it. I’m trying to keep the kids focused and motivated.

“I’m not surprised he did it. As an athlete he wants to play at the next level and he is going to commit himself to the weight room and put on more muscle. Will he stick to (his Tweet)? If they somehow end up playing 7 on 7 in the spring, I think he may play. If it’s in the fall, I don’t doubt for a moment he prefers not to and would opt out.”

No one from other schools has gotten back to him on social media to tell him they refuse to play 7 v. 7, too. He said some of his football-playing friends agree with him. Basil said he will not be surprised if older football players around the state find reasons not to play 7 v. 7. He also points out there will be 7 v. 7 again next summer before the 2021 season. Still he pushes strongly for the young guys to play it this fall for experience.

The CIAC, meanwhile, is exploring ideas for linemen. In the summer, there are some organized challenges for weight-lifting reps, sled-pushing, agility runs, tug-of-way, tire flips. If they do stuff like that, they should promote the heck out of it for the media.

“At the beginning of all this, I kept a level head about it,” Fratta said. “I was hoping for the best. Practicing, working, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have a season.’ What else are you going to do?”

As time went on and with all the head-spinning changes, well, this entire saga has taken its toll. No one stands to pay more than the big guys.

“Everything I see online and in the news, Connecticut is one of the best states with COVID,” Fratta said. “A lot of other states with worse numbers are playing this fall, some already into week three. They have those visors. There’s a lot of things we can do. And playing in the spring is the only thing that is kind of saving us. That’s what I got to hope for, I guess.

“If 7 v. 7 happens, God forbid, I would definitely be there for my team, to go and support. But I’m not playing. I’m absolutely not with the idea of playing half the team. I don’t think it’s fair in any sort of way. I’m not going to let them think it’s fair. If I’m a lineman and standing on the sideline unable to play, I’d feel so awful. I couldn’t even imagine.”

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

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