Pioneer Football League announces plan to play in spring

Dayton players and coaches will be tested for COVID-19 three times per week during season

The Pioneer Football League, which includes the Dayton Flyers and nine other programs, plans to play a six-game season in the spring.

The league announced Monday the season will take place from March 13 through April 17, though no schedule is in place at this point. The fall season was cancelled in August because of the coronavirus pandemic. The possibility of spring football was mentioned at that time.

Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin, whose team completed a fall practice season Saturday, knows his program and the rest of the league will have to walk a narrow path to pull off a season.

“The first step was having fall ball,” Chamberlin said. “Now you’ve got to talk about the status of the virus at that point when we get close to (the season): here in Dayton, the state and what it’s like across the country. (The league) is spread all over. Also the physical readiness of our players will be a factor. Conditioning and getting in shape will be difficult. You’ve got travel issues you’ve got to work out and the logistics of testing.”

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Chamberlin said the players, coaches and support staff will undergo approximately 450 tests in all per week during the season. That’s three tests per person every week.

Dayton’s players are finishing up classes Monday and Tuesday this week and will go home for the holiday, taking classes remotely for the rest of the semester. They will return to campus Jan. 19. Practice for the 2021 spring season begins Feb. 12.

“The league fully recognizes that this is an aspirational plan given the current severe state of the coronavirus pandemic,” read a PFL press release, “and the many unknowns in the coming months for the country, the diverse set of states in which our schools exist, and the PFL institutions themselves. Consequently, individual institutions may, at their sole discretion, choose to opt out of the PFL 2021 spring season at any time.”

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The league will also allow teams to schedule non-conference games. The six-game schedule will allow teams to compete for a PFL champion and the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Dayton returned to workouts in October and to full-pad practices in early November. It held 14 practices in all, wrapping things up with an offense vs. defense scrimmage Saturday. The offense won.

“We wore our game uniforms,” Chamberlin said. “We got brand new uniforms for the 2020 season and never got to wear them.”

Among the top performers in the fall practices was the returning starter at quarterback, Jack Cook, who Chamberlin said continues to improve. Running back Jake Chisolm and safety Brandon Easterling also impressed Chamberlin as did Joe Bubonics, who was hurt during the 2019 season and moved from cornerback to safety this fall because Dayton had better depth at cornerback.

“He had an outstanding two weeks,” Chamberlin said.

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