09-03-2020 Tri-City Area Sports

Hartford Prress Box By Jerrod Birmele

It’s still wait and see for Hartford fall sports; could football still play? Another edition of the Hartford Press Box is arriving on newsstands with very little new information to report on Indian Athletics. And as students arrived to their “new normal” to begin the school year (at least those who are getting their education in-person), sports are still at a standstill. Practices are taking place for cross-country, boys soccer and volleyball, but no competitions can take place as of press time. Meanwhile, those who enjoy the gridiron under the lights in the fall received a glimmer of hope from the MHSAA in recent days, who say that they may reconsider a decision on moving the sport to the spring. However, such a move is contingent on the relaxation of an executive order from the governor’s office, and it is unknown if that will happen. As the waiting game resumes this week, the cancellations of games, matches and meets continue to climb. Cross-country has lost the least amount of competitions, losing just one invitational in Bridgman due to cancellation so far. Volleyball has had two tournaments and their first match against Lawrence scratched from the calendar. Boys soccer has seen its first tournament and four matches go by the wayside and with football currently moved to a new season this spring, all nine of those games are on indefinite hiatus. Just a reminder that currently with executive orders on social distancing in place, only cross-country competition is permitted at Hartford High School under current MHSAA guidelines. However, boys soccer, girls swimming and diving, and volleyball are all underway in both Region 6 and Region 8 of the MI Safe Start plan, which has been mentioned in this column before includes the Traverse City region and the Upper Peninsula. Hartford’s boys soccer and volleyball programs are anxiously awaiting any bit of news from the governor’s office regarding the future of their seasons. In this area, and throughout much of Lower Michigan, the MHSAA states “competition in these sports may begin upon the issuance of future Executive Order(s) permitting soccer competition and opening of indoor school facilities for volleyball”. It adds under current orders, these sports may continue outdoor practices under current protocols, but may not compete within regions 1-5 and 7 for the time being. Meanwhile, football went from a near-certainty of spring action to the possibility of fall once again, due to comments made by those associated with the MHSAA. However, the time window is rather short, and action would have to take place sooner rather than later for there to be any chance of having some sort of semblance of a season. MHSAA officials have been monitoring other states, and have had a change of heart recently after seeing how others regionally have been playing with little to no problems. However, this does not mean the threat has dwindled to zero. Articles on a national level have revealed that high school football teams have had cases and forced entire teams to enter quarantine, ending up with teams missing practices, or worse, forfeiting games. While the change of heart sounds great right now, the decision does not lie in the hands of those in the MHSAA offices in East Lansing. It relies on actions that could be taken by Governor Whitmer, and needs an amendment or complete repeal of an executive order for a fall football season to even be brought back to the table for consideration. It should also be noted that even if the order is amended or repealed, it will just begin a discussion process, and does not guarantee a fall football season. Currently, under Executive Order 160, outdoor sporting events are prohibited without proper social distancing. One would have to believe a change would need to come in the next couple of weeks. With winter sports arriving in November, and the ever-changing weather we get here in our state, the period of getting a “full season” in and five rounds of playoff games (if you make the finals) is shortened now. But, if you are a high school football fan, like me, watch Executive Order 160 closely in the coming days and weeks. As it stands right now, football is allowed 16 voluntary coach-to-player contact days (with more than four players) with just helmets until the end of October. Among the stipulations are that no competitions or practices with students from other schools is allowed during this voluntary practice period. Proper safety protocols must take place, and the guidelines set forth during the “Acclimatization Week” during the first week of practice must be followed, and all activity must take place outdoors. So, to sum this all up, we are reminded of the directives from all summer long – be patient and stay tuned. Everything is changing minute-by-minute, and no one knows what they might miss if they blink just a little. In the meantime, we need to keep doing what we can to make our communities a healthier place. Everything we do now is making a positive difference, and, who knows, all fall sports may happen after all because of the actions we are taking. Thank you again for your loyalty to this column and the newspaper throughout these unique times in our history. We can say that happier days will arrive again, and we will all be cheering for the green and white together in unison in no time. As always, GO INDIANS!