Salesianum football players hold up signs during a protest before practice on Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Salesianum football players hold up signs during a protest before practice on Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Salesianum added two more football games to their schedule on Wednesday, but that's still not enough for their program.

That's the sentiment of more than a dozen Salesianum football players, who held a rally outside their natural grass practice field, wanting the DIAA to take action to get them a full, in-state schedule.

Salesianum is the only one of Delaware's 18 Division I schools not in a conference, 8 are in the Henlopen North, 8 in the Blue Hen Flight A, and Wilmington Charter is in the Division 2-based Diamond State Conference.

Signs reading: "We Also Want To Play", "Equitable and Fair Season", and "Why Not Us?" were held up by the players, which included senior Jack Healy.

"We're out here protesting our schedule. We want a fair and equal chance, like everybody else has in the state. We want seven in-state, Division I games, just like everyone else, in order to compete for the tournament."

Salesianum was only able to secure three in-state games, and that only happened when the Henlopen Conference attempted to protect their Henlopen South (Division 2) teams, who only had five guaranteed games out of the seven allotted in the truncated season. Two members, Polytech and Milford, will play split North/South schedules, which gave all 16 Henlopen teams 6 conference games and one out-of-conference opportunity.

Smyrna, Dover, and Sussex Central scheduled Salesianum.

The New Castle County-based Blue Hen Conference has 16 football playing members, 8 in Flight A, and 8 in Flight B. That meant when the conference chose to follow its bylaws about playing conference opponents first, all seven of their games were claimed.

DIAA Board of Directors President Dr. Bradley Layfield, principal at Sussex Central, said last week there wasn't anything they could do to the Blue Hen Conference, specifically.

"DIAA, or even the football committee, has absolutely no authority to dictate to any conference what they put out as far as their schedules go."

That left Salesianum sitting at three games, although the school wrote a letter to the DIAA on Tuesday, threatening legal action and a possible injunction, if the DIAA doesn't try to crack open some more playing opportunities in-state.

Salesianum was able to schedule two additional games, but they are both Pennsylvania schools in Malvern Prep and Lansdale Catholic.

Based on DIAA regulations guided by the Delaware Division of Public Health, even though the games will be played in the Keystone State, Salesianum will still be required to wear masks and follow Delaware policies. The PIAA does not require masks, so it's possible Salesianum may be playing two mask-less opponents.

Despite those two games, Salesianum Principal Brendan Kennealey told WDEL in a text message that legal action remains an option.

"DIAA still has not solved the problem. There are still challenges with these games and we don't have a full schedule."

Healy said the Sals have been grateful for the support, even as the motivation has been tricky to end knowing their chance at getting the five required games to even qualify for the DIAA State Tournament wasn't guaranteed.

"It's been tough, but we've been trying to keep hope. We know our parents are doing a great job, and our athletic director has been trying to get us games. We've been preparing like it's any other season, and we're happy we get to actually compete this season."

Healy said while Salesianum might be the only Division 1 private school in Delaware, that separation doesn't mean inequality to him.

"Just because we're a Division 1 Catholic school that's independent, we can still compete like everybody else. Even though we're not a public school, we should still be allowed to go out and play for a Division 1 title, because that's something that's really important, and that's something we'll never forget."

The DIAA Board of Directors will officially sign off on the Football Committee's recommendations for the state tournament Thursday, and then the Delaware State Board of Education is expected to vote on all of the DIAA changes in the evening.

Salesianum is not on the DIAA's agenda, and if nothing happens, the question still remains whether DIAA and Salesianum could meet in court.