GLEN RIDGE, NJ — There have been few aspects of daily life left untouched since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the country in March, and even six months later, school buildings aren’t open, face masks are still necessary and restaurants can open indoor dining at only 25-percent capacity. High school sports are pressing on as much as possible, though, and Glen Ridge is getting ready for its abbreviated football season when it begins in October.
“Different is an understatement,” head coach Steve Trivino said in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on Sept. 5. “We really didn’t start with phase one until the last two weeks, and we’ve been doing conditioning. It’s kind of hard to run a football practice from 6 feet apart. But we’ve been painting it with a positive attitude.”
The Ridgers open the season at home against Indian Hills High School on Oct. 2, and Trivino is looking forward to Sept. 14, when the team will be allowed to start full regular practices. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the state’s high school sports governing body, has been providing guidance and coronavirus protocol.
“You can’t do this safely without some contact,” Trivino, who is in his third year coaching in Glen Ridge, said. “We have to have them ready to tackle and play in full by then.”
He and his staff are also keeping in mind that if a player tests positive for the virus, the whole team has to shut down for the week. Glen Ridge runs the risk of it happening, just as any of its opponents do. So far, none of the 33 players on the team have opted not to participate.
“They’re kids who are antsy,” Trivino said. “They lost their lacrosse season, and their baseball and track seasons. They want to get out there, so we’re telling them to be safe.”
On top of the obvious changes, the Ridgers are playing in a new conference this year. The Ivy League was created for schools that don’t have enough football players to fill out all team levels: freshman, junior varsity and varsity. In addition to Indian Hills, Glen Ridge will be playing Fair Lawn, Tenafly, Dover, Dwight Morrow, Ferris and Caldwell. As a former player and coach at Caldwell himself, Trivino is excited to see that team on the schedule.
“You have an Essex County team there that we haven’t played in a while,” he said. “That’s exciting, to get the old Suburban Conference together. In all my years in Caldwell, we didn’t play Glen Ridge. I’d say it’s been at least 50 years.”
Three senior captains have already been named; Kevin Easter, Charles Vigna and Dean Geraci will be leading the Ridgers. A fourth captain will be named during the season. Brady Morin is another senior Trivino said will see playing time this year, along with Matt McCann, a kicker and wide receiver. Tommy Hausman, a junior center and defensive back, and junior quarterback Ryan O’Neil will be on the field as well.
“We have a dedicated senior class,” Trivino said. “We’re excited to have experience and some other guys who are ready to step up. Charlie and Dean got to see some playing time last year, so it’s nice to see them become captains.”
Making sure the players stay healthy is the most important thing to Trivino and the coaching staff, and Trivino’s hoping they get through the season, so that Easter, Vigna, Geraci, Morin and McCann can enjoy their last year in a Glen Ridge football jersey.
“It’s strange when I have to say, ‘Stay away from each other,’ because that’s not football,” Trivino said. “We’re just as aware of safety as everyone. But every day is one day closer to that being over.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct the spelling of a player’s name.