Junior Football League of Central Illinois cancels fall season; hopeful for future

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A local youth football league canceled its fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Junior Football League of Central Illinois (JFLOI) is having to tackle COVID-19 related issues. League officials said it’s something they anticipated but hoped it wouldn’t become reality. Executive Director of JFLOI Zo Evans said the board wanted to play.

“They wanted to do everything in their power to give our athletes a chance to participate, give them something they only get to do once a year,” Evans said.

On Thursday night, the league’s board of directors voted not to have their annual fall season and Evans said they were left with no other choice.

“So if the high school can’t play, the school districts said we can’t play on the fields either,” Evans said.

Vanessa Farraher, director of the Woodruff JFL league, said the decision came down to everyone’s health and safety.

“The board decided if those were our kids out there, we would want our own kids to be safe, so we all feel those are our kids,” Farraher said.

Farraher said the restrictions from the governor and health officials, along with lack of access to school-district owned fields left the league with no other options.

“It’s kind of hard to tell fans, ‘hey, you can only have certain parents there for your player.’ So it’s lose-lose because players cant play and parents cant watch,” Farraher said.

League officials and Evans said they tried every option in their playbook, but none of them can work out legally or safely.

“I wish they all knew how much we actually wanted them to play and that if there’s anything we could have done to allow them to have a safe season legally, we would have,” Evans said.

Evans and other league officials are shifting their optimism towards having a season in the spring of 2021. Morton’s director Josh McKee said it’s a tough pill for the kids to swallow.

“About all you can do is create some sort of busyness and something for your kids to do and take their mind off it,” McKee said.

Junior Football League officials said they are hopeful to have a spring season and won’t make any decisions on that at this time.

“Absolutely, if possible in the spring, and [if] it’s feasible, the board is open to any and all options of playing in the spring,” Evans said.

He said the change wouldn’t be permanent and for the fall of 2021, barring any other reason expect to have a season.

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