08-20-2020 Tri-City Area Sports

MEN UP FRONT… Watervliet Panther linemen prepare for a football season that won’t start until the spring. From the left: Perry Rowe, Parker Lanning, Isaiah Yazel, Connor Underwood, and Royce Daugherty.

Coloma Press Box By Dave Vollrath

No high school football in fall of 2020, planning to play in spring of ‘21 The dreaded COVID-19 has struck again, and this time it has taken away Friday night high school football for the fall of 2020. Yes, football is the newest victim of the virus which has taken away all high school sports since the first part of March this year. However unlike some of the winter sports and all of the spring sports, there are plans being worked on now to play the 2020-21 football season in the spring, and moving some of the spring sports out until the football season comes to an end. Football is the only Michigan high school sport to get chopped as of this writing, with all other fall sports currently still on track to take place as scheduled. The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) sent a letter out on Friday, Aug. 14 making the following announcement, “The representative council of the MHSAA today announced it will move the 2020 football season to the spring of 2021, due to football’s higher risk for spreading COVID-19, with the rest of fall sports proceeding as scheduled. The football season switch was made based on consultation with state health department officials and after surveying MHSAA member high schools on their progress and preferences after the first 4 days of practice. Football is considered a high-risk sport for the potential spread of the COVID-19 because of its level of player-to-player contact.” There were over 34,000 student-athletes who played football at MHSAA member schools during the 2019 season. There were 520 11-player teams and 83 8-player teams expected to play football this fall, according to late summer counts. Playing high school football in the spring while unique will at least provide the 2020-21 seniors the opportunity to play their final year of high school football. Coloma athletic director Wendy Goodline when asked for her thoughts on the change says that she thought it was inevitable, and now that the decision has been made they have plenty of time to come up with a good solid plan to play football in the spring. According to Comet head football coach Joe Stephens, more information is supposed to come out very soon on what the March-May football season might look like. There are many challenges to making these changes and still be able to have full spring sports, which has already lost a full season in the spring of 2020. One of the concerns would have to be playing football in the spring, ending in May, and then only having a couple of months to let the body heal before being back on the gridiron in August. Football is a very physical sport, not only during games, but practices. Weight and conditioning training really take a toll, and many football players also play other sports which leave little time to heal from one season to the next. When asked about this concern Coach Stephens says that if it means all of Coloma’s kids, especially the seniors, will get to play the sport they love, then he will do everything he can to make sure they are as prepared as possible. Coloma cross-country team ready to get running While the fall football season has moved to spring the Coloma cross-country team is continuing to prepare to run through the fall. The Comet girls made a big step up last season when they qualified as a team to run at the Michigan State cross-country finals, contested at the Michigan International Speedway across the state in Brooklyn. Several of the girls who ran at the state finals are back to give it another go and hopefully improve on their finish at state. The Coloma boys will also be looking to improve on last year, and possibly join the girls on that big track normally raced on by the top NASCAR drivers in the sport. The Comets still have a relatively young squad, with only three seniors, Blane Sutherland, Abby Vandermolen, and Kayla Walter, who are back for their final year. Ava Genovese, Chloe Williams, Camryn Brown, Bailey McVay, and Skylar Wolfe are the underclassmen who make up the rest of the Comet girls roster. Abby, Chloe, and Ava, are all motivated runners, and each of them can cross the finish line first, on any given day, and should push themselves and the others to run their best. The Coloma boys have a large group of underclassmen pounding the pavement around town with Blane, and they are Andy Granados, Jake Ickes, Caeleb Ishmael, Ethan Vandermolen, McKinleigh Kraemer, Aiden Cripe, Boden Genovese, Ben Hess, Cameron Schink, Carter Crist, and Cali Grenon. According to Comet head coach Courtney Churchill, she says her team is young but they are very strong. Each one of them can step up and take leadership roles. Camryn, Chloe, Ava and Boden all attended a weeklong camp up in Traverse City over the summer where they learned about nutrition and healthy running habits. It was a great experience for those runners, and also great for others on the team, as they share many of the fresh new ideas they learned at camp. The first meet for the Comets will find them running at The Big Hill Climb (that sounds painful), in Three Rivers. Coach Churchill is excited for the season and says, “The kids have put in a lot of work over the summer, and I feel like we’re more prepared for the season than in years past. Everyone is healthy and strong.” The coach also says that it will be a different kind of season without the support of the parents on the course to cheer their kids, but it’s great they’re going to have a season even with the changes and challenges brought about by the COVID-19 virus.

Watervliet Press Box by John Oliphant

That didn’t last long High school football had five good days of helmets-only practice completed by Friday afternoon including the Panthers of Watervliet High School, but then late in the day the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) made a surprise announcement that they were sacking the scheduled 2020 season and creating a new season in the spring of 2021. They were expected to make this announcement on August 20, but it came early. MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a statement: “At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall. But while continuing to connect with the Governor’s office, state health department officials, our member schools’ personnel and the Council, there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall. No one is willing to take the risk of COVID being passed on because of a high-risk sport. Decisions have to be made on our other sports as well, but none of those carry the same close, consistent, and face-to-face contact as football.” Other fall sports at Michigan high schools are still moving forward as scheduled, pending the expected announcements on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. As of now, cross country, boys tennis and girls golf are cleared for full competition and can begin meets and matches this week. Of the remaining active sports boys soccer is in the most danger because it is considered a contact sport among those in the moderate risk group. At the same time volleyball competes indoors, and that’s not yet allowed under Phase 4 of the governor’s reopening plan. Keep in mind that indoor gatherings are still limited to 10 people, making indoor sports practice and competition all but impossible. MHSAA media and content coordinator Geoff Kimmerly left some hope for other sports: “We still have to get teams in the gym and the pool for volleyball and swimming,” Kimmerly said. “Volleyball and soccer are moderate risks, but we feel like we can put in enough cautions that we can play those safely. I feel right now that we can compete in those as well. We think we will be able to put something together that would allow us to play those three sports.” As for the spring football schedule the MHSAA hasn’t made any concrete decisions. They have discussed carving out a place between winter and spring sports but all they have are concepts so far. Challenges for such a modified football schedule in Michigan include the extreme weather in the Upper Peninsula where it is common to have several feet of snow on the ground in April and May while we’re enjoying the blossoms. A final decision on this crazy schedule idea could come on August 30. Meanwhile, parents of football players and cheerleaders have been active on social media to get the MHSAA to reverse course on the season. A new Facebook page dedicated to challenging the MHSAA’s decisions already has 9,000 members, many of whom are upset, to say the least, at the likelihood of a missed football season. Many states have either postponed or canceled fall sports, and some are like Michigan and still deciding how to proceed. Others, like Ohio and Indiana are playing football as usual this month. We’re down to the wire with school starting in about 11 days, so expect lots of announcements in the next few days regarding the operation of local schools and sports.

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele

All fall sports on for now – except football The coronavirus pandemic continues to wreck havoc on just about everything in our daily lives – sports included. And while the professional sports scene returns to action, albeit without fans in the stands, things have been a little more messy in regards to collegiate and high school sports. And while most high school sports have been given the green light, one fall sport got abruptly postponed, and has left coaches and players in a serious flux. On Friday, Aug. 14, the Michigan High School Athletic Association and its representative council announced that football has been postponed until the spring of 2021. This clearly was a decision that was not taken lightly, as two weeks prior, a plan was in place for a normal fall sports season, including football. The postponement is primarily due to football’s higher-risk for potential spread of COVID-19, because of constant player-to-player contact. Last season, more than 34,000 participants statewide took part in football, and the association expected a total of 603 teams to play this season. While football is consistently the most popular sport played in Michigan, it has seen a significant participation decline in recent years, having lost over 12,000 participants since the 2007-08 school year. In a statement on the MHSAA’s website, executive director Mark Uyl stated that “at the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall”, while adding, “but while continuing to connect with the Governor’s office, state health department officials, our member schools’ personnel and the council, there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall.” In addition, a decision on other fall sports, such as boys soccer and volleyball, will be coming soon, but the news release indicates the remainder of sports may go on as scheduled. “Decisions have to be made on our other sports as well, but none of those carry the same close, consistent, and face-to-face contact as football”, added Uyl. Back on July 17, the MHSAA announced it would proceed with its traditional calendar of sports this school year, but with precautions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. At that time, the association did promote moving football, and other all sports seasons, to next spring should they be deemed unsafe to proceed. Football began practice, with helmets only, on Aug. 10, only to be axed less than one week later. Details for the spring football season, including a specific sport schedule and format will be announced in the coming months. The biggest thing the MHSAA must do is ensure the new football season does not overlap traditional spring sports. Current indications lean towards starting in March and ending in early-May, but that is currently up in the air. The MHSAA’s decision was met with mixed reviews, with many people on both sides of the fence. Those that agree with the verdict concur that safety is the top priority in this time of uncertainty, and that in the current condition of the pandemic, schools could not do enough to protect student-athletes. On the opposing side of the opinion is many people worry about their kid’s mental welfare, as well as trying to keep a more traditional look to football. Of course, regardless of the decision, nobody was going to be fully happy. Other Hartford sports, including cross-country, boys soccer, and volleyball, remains on schedule for the time being. Cross-country is considered a “low-risk” sport, while boys soccer and volleyball are deemed “moderate-risk” sports. All of these sports began practice last week on Wednesday, Aug. 12, and teams are looking forward to the competition season. In fact, cross-country teams may begin competing as early as the end of the week. Current indications are boys soccer will be approved for competition in the not-so-distant future, while volleyball is still questionable. This is because parts of the state, including our area, remain in “Phase 4” of the MI Safe Start plan, and remain unable to play indoors due to current restrictions. Further guidance from the state is expected in the near future regarding the status of indoor facilities. So, maybe after all, there is some silver lining on the horizon, but make no mistake – I feel awful for those football players who worked all summer and started practice; only to be told “no season” until spring four days into practice. The best thing the MHSAA could have done would have been to not give false hope to those coaches and players, and just made the decision earlier. In the end, it didn’t accomplish anything, and put everyone in a “hostage” situation. The best thing the MHSAA can do now is come up with a comprehensive game plan to have a successful spring football season. What that season will look like – no one knows. What will the pandemic situation be in six months? Will it be better or will it be worse? No one knows the answers to these questions, but everyone needs to plan to remain ahead of the curve. I sincerely hope when the season arrives, that coaches and players are going to bring their A-games. As always, GO INDIANS!

Ladies Monday Night Happy Hour Golf League

Aug. 17 Golf Report from the Paw Paw Lake Golf Club: Weekly Event, Low Gross – Cheryl Hutchins with 47; Low Net – Charlene Durfee and Maureen Pavletic with 34; Low Putts – Maureen Pavletic with 14; Pars – Maureen Pavletic #3, Cheryl Hutchins #1 and #2; Chip-Ins – Judy Lynch #9.

Press Box Player of the Week!

Hartford Indian Football coaches and players Because of their hard work this summer, the Hartford Indian Football coaches and players will receive this week’s Tri-City Record Press Box Player(s) of the Week honors. There were changes to the program even before the coronavirus pandemic arrived last spring, starting with a coaching regime change. Brad Manning stepped down from coaching the varsity team after three years, and Tom Matthews was brought in to breathe new life into the program. There was excitement abound in the program about the changes coming, and then, the pandemic hit. It changed how we lived everyday life, and how school athletics would be conducted. This meant that teams would be stuck outside for the entire summer conditioning period, as use of weight room facilities were off limits. Not to mention coaches and their student-athletes had to maintain social distancing and follow numerous guidelines to protect health, safety and well-being. All of that combined could have been a big morale deflator. And yet, the players and coaches at all levels showed up, and kept showing up multiple times a week during those hot summer days to get better every day. They went through hours and hours of running drills, learning a new playbook and coming together as teams. Then, the varsity team started official practices on Aug. 10, and things were looking up. The team’s numbers were solid, and morale was high for a successful season. Four practices later, it was over until the spring. It’s always tough to see something you work so hard for taken away so close to fruition. Hopefully, when football returns in the spring, every coach and player, from middle school to high school, will be able to create their own memories with a happier ending. If you see a football coach or player out and about this fall give them some encouraging words and keep their morale boosted. They certainly can use every bit of positive energy in this tough time in their lives.

Dr. Andy says… “The 5 keys to health are: nutrition, sleep, exercise, attitude, and a healthy nervous system. How are you doing on each of these? Chiropractic helps keep the nervous system healthy.”


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