Michigan High School Athletic Association reinstates fall football
Fri, 09/04/2020 - 12:23pm caleb
Plan is for teams to start ‘shortened season’ with Week 4 scheduled games on September 17-19 and all varsity squads will make the playoffs
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Football is back.
Approximately three weeks after the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s August 14 postponement of the 2020 fall football season to the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions in place to curb the spread of the virus, the MHSAA opted to bring the sport back to the fall for a partial season following a new executive order from Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
“The fall 2020 football season has been reinstated today by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association after Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-176 lifted restrictions that previously did not allow the sport to be played,” the MHSAA said in a press release on Thursday, September 3.
According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s September 3 announcement, the 2020 fall football campaign will be a “shortened season” with all teams qualifying for the playoffs in both traditional 11-player football and 8-player football.
According to the MHSAA, schools can still opt to play football in the spring, but the association’s playoff tournament will be conducted in the fall of 2020.
The Vikings of Grayling High School are planning to play now.
Eric Tunney, head coach of the Grayling High School varsity football program, said players found out about the announcement on the afternoon of Thursday, September 3, during a workout session.
“Just found out minutes ago,” Coach Tunney said after the announcement of the MHSAA’s decision to reinstate football. “We had a large group of kids doing agilities after lifting today and (Crawford AuSable School District Athletic Director Nate) Maury interrupted and announced it. The kids all yelled, clapped, and got excited. I was not expecting us to be able to go but am ecstatic for the kids, particularly the seniors.”
“We are thankful for the opportunity for kids to get back on the field in all fall sports, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer providing that opportunity with Executive Order 2020-176,” said Mark Uyl, MHSAA Executive Director. “We share the governor’s priorities of putting health and safety first, and the COVID-19 guidance and protocols designed by the MHSAA at her request have led to the safe starts in all sports across the state.”
“Thirty-three other states are currently participating in all fall sports, and the MHSAA and its member schools are committed to doing this as safely as possible. We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy. Given the challenges of online education in many school districts across the state, providing sports and a daily routine may be more important than ever in motivating students and providing a safe outlet for physical activity, competition, and socialization,” Uyl said.
The MHSAA has instructed football teams to “cease all activity until Tuesday, September 8.” Teams can practice “two days in helmets and shoulder pads” on September 8 and 9 “before adding full pads September 10,” according to the MHSAA.
The plan is for varsity games to begin on Friday, September 18, with teams skipping Week 1 through Week 3 on their schedules and picking up at Week 4.
“They may begin regular season games September 18, and will play six games beginning with their originally scheduled Week 4 contests. All football teams in 11 and 8-player football will qualify for the playoffs during this fall’s shortened season, and then advance through their usual postseason progression with 8-player finals the weekend of November 27-28 and 11-player finals the weekend of December 4-5,” according to the MHSAA.
For Grayling High School’s varsity football team, the Vikings are slated to play at Kalkaska High School on Friday, September 18, at 7 p.m. The squad has home games slated for September 25 (vs. Traverse City St. Francis), October 2 (vs. Benzie Central), and October 9 (vs. Kingsley). The varsity team is scheduled to play at Cheboygan on October 16 and at Ogemaw Heights on October 23.
Though the MHSAA’s public announcement states “September 18” as the designated day to start fall football games, an email to Michigan coaches from the association explains that “the competition season will consist of six regular season games beginning the Thursday-Saturday of September 17-19,” which allows junior varsity teams to resume their normal Thursday game night routine with Week 4’s September 17 contest.
The GHS junior varsity football squad is slated to host Kalkaska at 6 p.m. on Thursday, August 17. The team is scheduled to play road games at Traverse City St. Francis (September 24), Benzie Central (October 1), and Kingsley (October 8) before ending its season with home games vs. Cheboygan (October 15) and Ogemaw Heights (October 22).
The Vikings are looking forward to another opportunity to get on the field after being told three weeks ago that their season was being moved to the spring.
“It sounds like we can start practice on Tuesday the 8th in helmets and our first game will be the 18th. I believe the plan is to resume what would have been the normally scheduled games so that would put us Week 4 vs. Kalkaska,” Coach Tunney said. “Lots of work to do but told the kids this is our second chance. Sounds like everyone will qualify for the playoffs, which will guarantee seven games.”
Executive Order 2020-176, an amended “Safe Start” order from the governor signed on September 3, adds an “Organized Sports” section to the regulations outlined in Executive Order 2020-160. The “Safe Start” order says what businesses and other operations are allowed in Michigan during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The rules for football, as of Friday, September 4, are different in Region 6 and Region 8 than in the rest of the state. Crawford County, along with most of northern Michigan, is in Region 6. Region 8 is the Upper Peninsula. There are fan limitations, physical distancing guidelines, and mask requirements for all regions.
In Regions 6 and 8, the spectator limit at an outdoor “sports arena” or “stadium” is “25% of its maximum capacity or to 500, whichever is smaller,” according to Executive Order 2020-176. The order says that sports stadiums “may be open to spectators or patrons provided that it arranges the venue such that persons not part of the same household may maintain six feet of distance from one another at all times while in the venue.”
In Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7, the spectator limits are significantly more stringent. “For outdoor organized sports competitions, sports organizers must ensure that either the live audience is limited to the guests of the participants with each athlete designating up to two guests or the live audience is limited to the extent that 100 people or fewer are gathered for the event including all participants (athletes, coaches, staff, etc.),” according to Executive Order 2020-176.
Grayling’s first five scheduled opponents for the 2020 fall football season – Kalkaska, Traverse City St. Francis, Benzie Central, Kingsley, and Cheboygan – are in Region 6. Their only scheduled opponent outside of Region 6 is Ogemaw Heights, which is located in Region 4.