07-23-2020 Tri-City Area Sports

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant

Panther Football history The COVID curveball is keeping us all guessing what’s going to happen next. One of those possibilities was an attempt to postpone a couple heavy-contact sports until spring and bring spring sports to the fall. Fortunately the MHSAA recently agreed with just about everyone else that swapping the seasons wasn’t workable and didn’t do much to solve the virus-related problems. The bet was that full-contact sports, especially the big-money football season, would be safer in the spring when the rules will be relaxed. But that also meant bringing full-contact sports like boys soccer and lacrosse into the fall, as well as indoor sports like swimming and diving. The football season in California has been pushed back into the winter, but obviously that’s not going to work in any of the cold-weather states. As of this moment the regular fall sports schedule is still in effect, with full football practice starting August 10 and all other fall sports beginning on August 12. The first week of the regular season football schedule begins the week of August 20 and the others have varying schedules. Of course, all of this scheduling is subject to state restrictions. As a result of the no-contact rule currently in place the Panthers have not been able to participate in 7-on-7 drills with local schools, and team workouts have been somewhat limited, too. Cross your fingers, wear your masks, and avoid large gatherings and travel. We’ll see how well that goes.

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele

MHSAA gives fall sports “green light”; but will it actually happen? The coronavirus pandemic has changed everybody’s way of life over the last four months, and has led to the cancellation of so many different aspects – school, graduations, sports, festivals, and more. In turn, people across the country have been looking for those bright spots, and as a sport reporter, the opening of sports has been one of them. Another bright spot for local athletes came last week via an important announcement from the MHSAA. On July 17, the Michigan High School Athletic Association issued “Summer Update #4” which stated that the organization’s current plan is to begin the 2020-21 school year playing fall sports as originally planned. While the announcement looked good in its opening sentence, it added “but with contingency concepts for potential interruptions due to the spread of COVID-19.” The 19-member legislative body, the Representative Council, made up of administrators and athletic directors from schools of all sizes throughout the state, met virtually to discuss the viability of having fall sports as scheduled this year. While a decision was made at their July 15 meeting, they will meet again next week for further discussions. A solid decision must be made soon, as football practice is set to begin Aug. 10 and all other sports two days later. This puts administrators, athletic directors, coaches and players all in a tough predicament. Summer conditioning, with the obvious restrictions, has been going on for a few weeks now. While conditioning will continue in the near future, nothing is completely set in stone. With the conditions changing minute-by-minute, fall sports can be postponed by the snap of a finger. This will require everyone to stay on their toes, and remain cautiously optimistic. With concerns in mind, the MHSAA has come up with a four-step “return-to-play” plan. This plan will allow for multiple scenarios the organization can use in the case that sports can be played as scheduled, or in the case COVID-19 has other plans. One way or another, they are trying to play three sports seasons this school year. The plans include: play fall sports in the fall, as scheduled; if conditions deem it necessary, delay the start of some, or all, fall sports practices and competitions; if conditions allow only some sports, play lower-risk fall sports with higher-risk sports postponed until later in the school year; and if any fall sports are postponed or suspended, resume the season using a reconfigured calendar that would see a completion of the winter sports season, followed by fall and spring seasons potentially extending into next-July. The MHSAA noted in their press release that the Representative Council did consider concepts that would have swapped fall and spring sports, but did not believe it to be a feasible plan, due to potential moderate and high-risk sports in both seasons (including football, volleyball and soccer). They also determined moving selected sports around to other seasons would not work, as it would make student-athletes pick between sports and would have created other logistical problems. However, all of these plans remain in the state government’s hands, and specifically, Governor Whitmer’s MI Safe Start Plan. Currently, the UP and northern Michigan are in “phase 5”, while all other regions are in “phase 4”. Here locally, what that means is no indoor training, practice or competition can be held. If we drop to “phases 1-3”, no school in-person education can exist, let alone athletics. As a high school sports fan and writer, I welcome this news. However, if I take that hat off and become a realist, it’s a lot more questions than answers. The biggest issue I have is how do you protect coaches and student-athletes? I understand, they are doing temperature checks and COVID-19 history now, and while that is great, it does not tell the whole picture. We know that many cases of the coronavirus come with “silent” symptoms, yet, without proper testing protocols in place, how can we really determine which student-athletes might have it? The last thing you need during an athletic season is for it to be passed along teammate-to-teammate; causing players and their families to have to quarantine in the process, costing them valuable practice time, along with games. Also, if you cannot have indoor practices or competitions, what does that do to the indoor fall sports seasons; here in Hartford, particularly volleyball? It could become a lose-lose situation for them, especially considering they are working hard, just like everyone else. It also leads to restrictions on weight room access, which is critical for the strength and conditioning of athletics throughout their seasons. I know that student-athletes all throughout Hartford want to play fall sports, and I totally get it. I want them to know that I want them to play, too. I want to be able to announce your goals and your touchdowns, and report on your amazing accomplishments and stats in the paper. I know that wearing that Hartford jersey means something. It’s a symbol of honor and pride; representing your community and your school, while playing sports with some of your closest friends, should never be taken for granted. The MHSAA and I both agree on the fact that sports need to be brought back safely. We need to continue to work with our state government and our local health departments to best come up with a plan for all activities to resume in the safest environment possible in this “new normal”. But, in the end, it all comes down to us – the citizens of our tri-cities. We must do our part now so that our student-athletes have sports to play this season, and effectively, this year. Before leaving the house, think of the senior student-athlete who may never get a chance to play football or volleyball again after their high school days; their last “hoorah” as many say. They deserve the opportunity to play, and the more we work together now, the sooner things begin trending in a positive direction. Let’s all work together, not just for the sake of having athletics, but for the sake of health, safety, and well-being of our friends, neighbors and citizens. It will take all of us to do this, but we can achieve whatever we set our mind to. To the citizens of Hartford, and even to the citizens of Coloma and Watervliet, I believe in you. Let’s make this happen. As always, GO INDIANS!

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath

Comets introduce Joe Schmidt, new Coloma boys soccer coach The Coloma Comets had several coaching vacancies at the varsity level to fill at the beginning of the summer, including boys soccer, a fall sport, and girls bowling and girls basketball, which are both played in the winter months. Comet’s athletic director, Wendy Goodline, took little time in filling the most immediate need, which would be the soccer team whose season will begin late in August.

Press Box Player of the Week!

By Dave Vollrath Tri-City Record Press Box Player of the Week for July 23, 2020 is Coloma Comet graduate Megan Koenigshof. Megan is a 2020 graduate of Coloma, and was one of the top players for the Comets since she came into the program as a freshman. This summer, which only began about a month ago because of the COVID-19 virus shutdown, Megan is playing on a travel fast pitch softball team from Portage, MI called the Hurricanes. Last weekend, July 18-19, Megan helped the Hurricanes win the championship trophy, playing in the Stevensville Beach Bash invitational softball tournament. The Hurricanes went undefeated at 4-0 to win the championship in the 18U age division, and Megan had an outstanding tournament. Megan says she did some pitching, but played mostly in the middle infield positions – shortstop and second base. Megan also led the offense from her usual leadoff spot in the lineup, getting on base frequently, swiping bases at will, and crossing home plate frequently. Megan also played strong up the middle on defense, keeping the opponents off the base paths. This is Megan’s first year playing on the Hurricanes squad. She’s greatly enjoying lacing up her cleats, and getting back on the field again following a very disappointing spring where she was denied the opportunity to finish out her stellar Comet softball career, which included a state championship during her sophomore year. We congratulate Megan on this award and wish her the best of everything, as she leaves next month for Grand Valley State where she will continue her education and play softball for the Lakers. Dr. Andy says… “Every medication you take has a side effect. It is important to consider that when you choose medications. They are necessary at times, but healthier lifestyle choices can sometimes eliminate the need for some of those meds. Chiropractic helps the body function healthier naturally.”