MHSAA suspends fall sports again as pilot program for testing finalized
Wed, 12/23/2020 - 9:57am caleb
GHS football team practices for two days before another shutdown, date of regional championship game moved again
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Grayling High School’s varsity football team resumed practices for two days last week after the Michigan High School Athletic Association released another updated plan for finishing fall sports playoffs, but the MHSAA announced on Tuesday, December 22, that it is again suspending the season as details are finalized for a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services pilot program for COVID-19 testing.
“The Michigan High School Athletic Association has adjusted its schedule to conclude fall tournaments in football, volleyball, and girls swimming/diving today after receiving full details and requirements for the pilot rapid testing program being provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as an opportunity for teams and individuals to conclude their seasons amid a pause due to COVID-19,” the MHSAA said in a press release received by the Crawford County Avalanche at 5:47 p.m. on Tuesday, December 22.
“Due to requirements and need for more direction from MDHHS that will be forthcoming in the next week, the MHSAA has instructed schools still participating in those sports to suspend practice immediately. The MHSAA also is working to update dates of competition to better reflect the testing schedule. Taking part in the MDHHS testing pilot is a requirement for athletes to participate in the final competitions in these sports,” according to the MHSAA.
In November, in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services released a new “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” that forced the suspension of high school in-person learning and organized sports for three weeks. At the time, the MHSAA’s plan was to resume football, volleyball, and swimming/diving playoffs in mid-December. The MDHHS extended the order 12 days, forcing another adjustment of the schedule for the remaining fall sports.
Then, on Friday, December 18, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced changes to its Gatherings and Face Mask Order, allowing high schools to reopen for in-person learning on December 21 and allowing fall sports to resume their paused seasons.
According to the latest MDHHS order, “gatherings for the purpose of indoor organized sports and contact organized sports are prohibited unless all participants, teams, and venues comply with” specific rigorous testing requirements used by universities and professional teams or “a school is participating in an MDHHS testing pilot program.”
The order does not provide specific details about the “pilot program,” and the MHSAA is now waiting for more information from the MDHHS before proceeding.
“Fall teams taking part in the pilot program are expected to receive rapid-result antigen tests and more instruction by Tuesday, December 29. The MDHHS on December 28-29 will be conducting webinars to train school personnel who will be involved in the testing process. Once the first tests have been administered on Wednesday, December 30, full team practices may commence. If schools are delayed in the start of testing, those schools may begin practice once individuals have had one negative test,” according to the MHSAA.
For Grayling High School, football is the only fall sport that is still active in the playoffs. The Vikings won three postseason games to clinch a district championship prior to the suspension of fall sports, and they were set to play against Negaunee for the Division 6, Region 21 championship. After practices were restarted on December 21, football postseason games were slated for January 2, but the MHSAA recently announced that date has been moved back.
Regionals for 11-player football are now slated for January 9, followed by the state semifinal round on January 16, and then the state finals on January 22-23, according to the MHSAA.
The Vikings practiced on Monday and Tuesday, December 21 and 22, and then received the news of the latest shutdown on Tuesday night.
“I found out late last night after practice and am still processing it,” Coach Eric Tunney said. “We will give the kids some workouts and drills to do on their own again. Once we know more we can plan. It’s frustrating for everyone involved.”
“I’m proud of our guys. We got after it for these two days. We know we have to get in shape and once again our kids attacked everything we threw at them,” Coach Tunney said.