BRANDON — Ah, autumn. It is a season of hillsides combusting into a fiery landscape of red, gold and orange, pumpkins strewn across a field and the popping of the pads.
Well, as Meat Loaf sang “two out of three ain’t’ bad.”
There are no pads in Vermont high school football this season because there is no hitting. It’s a 7-on-7 game where there is only passing and the receiver is down by a touch not a tackle.
Another thing that is missing is players. Otter Valley football coach Kipp Denis looked longingly at the school’s boys varsity soccer team with 26 players on an adjacent field.
The Otter Valley football team has just 18 players.
“We would be in the mid-30s,” Denis said of the roster his team would have if 11-man full contact football was allowed to be played this season.
Another aspect of the football season that is missing, at least so far, is postseason play.
Denis is hoping the decision makers will reconsider and just put some type of postseason tournament together with a trophy at stake. There would not be a state champion, but some kind of round robin affair to give the players a carrot to chase.
“I have a few kids who said that they would be here if we had some type of playoff,” Denis said. “I have a couple of seniors who decided not to play. That’s a tough one.
“These kids would rather play tackle but they have a great attitude. We’re going to be ready.”
It’s a little easier to adapt to the 7-on-7 game when your playbook looks like Otter Valley’s.
“We are a passing team anyway,” Denis said. “It will be tougher for a running team like Poultney but they will figure it out.”
Alex Polli likes to throw the ball so he should have a lot of fun with the 7-on-7 format as he enters his second year as the starter.
Chante Buggiani returns as a receiver and defensive back.
Aidan Bleier will be the center and also have a role on defense yet to be determined.
Jacob Markowski is another center and will also play some wide receiver. He is eager for the season after blowing out his knee in the game against Windsor last fall.
They all return with appreciable varsity experience.
The captains will be Buggiani, Markowski, Polli and Bleier.
“We have a lot of young kids. We are going to have to play a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” Denis said. “It is a whole new experience.”
But the younger members are also latching on to the concepts of this new football game.
“They are catching on fast,” Denis said.
Noah Drew could make an impact as a freshman at wide receiver.
“He looks good,” Denis said.
Freshman Luca Polli, Alex’s brother, is the backup quarterback and will play in the defensive secondary.
Other players include Wyatt Fitzgerald and Morgan Landesnam.
Both coordinators return, Jordan Tolar on offense and Keith Alexander on defense.
The Otters will find out quickly just where they are at with a season-opening trip to Middlebury on Sept. 25. The home opener comes on Oct. 3 against Poultney.