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Football to return with six-game regular season

By
JEFF STEERS

Britton Deerfield High School junior Nico Johnson knows a thing or two about listening to and following authority.

His father, Erik, is the head football coach at BD and his mother, Stacy, is the superintendent.

Johnson, his father, and several teammates were at the #LetThemPlay rally at the state capitol late in August on what would have been the first football Friday for football teams.

He pleaded the case for football to return this fall.

Someone must have been listening.

The fall 2020 football season has been reinstated late last week by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order 176 lifted restrictions that previously did not allow the sport to be played. Johnson had help from the MHSAA, other parents, and high school coaches association putting the pressure on state officials.

Whitmer’s executive order also allows for an immediate start of competition of boys soccer; Lower Peninsula girls swimming and diving and girls volleyball on Wednesday (Sept. 9) for schools located in Regions 1-5 and 7 based on the MI Safe Start Plan.  It also sets spectator limits of two per participant for outdoor and indoor events in Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan. 

Statewide football, and competition in those regions for volleyball, soccer and swimming and diving, had been restricted as part of EO 160, which ordered gyms and pools to remain closed and required social distancing in competition to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in areas under Phase 4 of the Safe Start plan. Schools in Regions 6 and 8 have been able to play volleyball, soccer and swim because those regions have been under fewer restrictions while in Phase 5 of the reopening process.

“I am very thankful for what you (the governor) has done to keep me, my friends, and other children safe,” Johnson said to a crowd of more than 500 sport supporters. “The last six months have not been easy.

“As the son of a public school superintendent, I know your job is hard. I know what you have done has saved many lives. I am here today to ask for help. We need help to move forward.”

The MHSAA’s Council had authorized on August 20 the start of competition in volleyball, soccer and swim statewide, pending the authorization of that activity in the specific regions by Whitmer’s office. The Council also on Aug. 14 postponed the fall 2020 football season to Spring 2021, but voted last week to allow for a shortened season this fall.

Schools are not required to play any of those sports this fall, and may postpone until the spring. However, the MHSAA will conduct its postseason events in those four sports only for the Fall 2020 season.
 “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 176,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “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.”

Football teams previously had been allowed to practice in helmets only during the traditional first week of practice, which began August 10, and then during Council-approved offseason “contact” days beginning August 24. With the reinstatement of this fall’s season, football teams must cease all activity until Tuesday, Sept. 8, then practice two days in helmets and shoulder pads before adding full pads September 10.

They may begin regular-season games Sept. 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 11-Player Finals the weekend of December 4-5.

All other fall 2020 tournaments will be conducted as previously scheduled.

Notes for the return of football:

Sept. 8: Practices began with helmets and shoulder pads.

Sept. 10: Full pads are allowed after two days of practice.

Sept. 17-19: Let the football games begin with teams playing against week four opponents on the original schedule. Six regular season games will be played.

Oct. 30: The Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs begin. The good news is all teams will be entered into the tournaments – just like basketball. The playoffs will culminate somewhere different than Ford Field because of COVID-19 indoor restrictions.

Cheerleaders and bands: According to John Johnson of the MHSAA, teams in regions that are in Phase 4 – of the COVID-19 plan – would be allowed to have cheerleaders, but no bands.

Football games scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18:
• Tecumseh at Jackson, 7 p.m.
• Ida at Clinton, 7 p.m.
• Britton Deerfield at Morenci,  7 p.m.
 

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