Schools try to plan for clearing fields

Lowville and Thousand Islands play on Thousand Islands’ turf field in Clayton in 2018. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

At this point in the 2020-21 school year, plan B for high school football is in full effect. Coaches throughout the state are looking to March 1 as the start of the football season.

The date naturally brings concerns about sport overlap, but it comes with another challenge, particularly in the north country: mother nature.

“There is only one thing that I’m concerned about and that’s getting the turf cleared,” South Jefferson football coach, Randy Fuller said.

March weather in the north country is not usually hospitable. This past March saw little snow and favorable temperatures but a March storm or two is more typical. So coaches and athletic directors are already making plans for how they can best clear off their fields.

For the majority of the Frontier League football schools, football is played on turf fields, Sandy Creek is now the only exception. In Section 10, several schools play on grass, which is more vulnerable to the weather.

Fuller, in his first year as head coach of the Spartans, is wracking his brain over how to efficiently clear snow off of South Jefferson’s new turf field without damaging it.

“I have been talking to any person in our district that would listen,” Fuller said. “Because our turf is new ... it’s like buying a new car, people are careful with it until you get a few miles on it. I’ve coached college lacrosse and the school I was at in New England, we plowed the turf. We snow-blowed it whenever we had snow. So, I’m hoping that we’ll find a way to get that done.”

Fuller is also the head boys lacrosse coach at South Jefferson, Lacrosse typically begins around mid March and often practices in less-than-ideal conditions. The weather itself doesn’t necessarily concern him.

“We’re normally starting the second week of March, it’s cold and there’s snow on the ground,” Fuller said. “In a typical year we practice in the parking lot for two weeks, before we had turf.”

Football teams can adapt, too, as both Lowville and Carthage played their seasons late into November in 2019 and the teams often conducted drills and ran through plays and formations inside their gyms due to inclement weather.

But even the possibility of shifting a physical practice indoors is up in the air since schools are wary of using their gyms for even physical education classes under pandemic regulations.

Other head football coaches have begun brainstorming new ways to quickly clear off their fields without tearing it up.

Lowville is in a particularly sticky situation as the school’s turf complex sits lower than their parking lots and is surrounded on two sides by the school, resulting in a lack of wind and an abundance of shadows. Also, elementary school kids often go out to the turf for recess, which packs down the snow.

Head coach Josh Coffman and his staff are thinking up creative solutions to getting the field into playing condition in a timely fashion, one of which involves tarps.

“We really don’t have the option with our turf of clearing snow off, we never got the OK with that, so we have talked about possible ways to make it easier for the snow to go away,” Coffman said. “Whether it be placing tarps or garbage bags on areas, because once the green of the turf is exposed, if you get a good sunny day or a rainy day, (the snow) goes away fast.”

Coffman also mentioned possibly asking the fire department to hose the field down on warmer days to help expedite the snow melting process.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Sports Writer

Beat writer for Section 3 high school football, Frontier League boys and girls basketball, Frontier League baseball and Frontier League softball.

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