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MHSAA pushes football to spring

Red Hawk Miles Cartwright knocks down a Forest Hills Northern pass during their last game in the OK-White conference last fall, where they took their second consecutive championship. Photo by J. Harnden.

By Judy Reed

After two consecutive championships in the OK-White, Red Hawk players, coaches and fans were looking forward to their matchups this fall in the OK-Gold. And until late last week, it looked like the Michigan High School Athletic Association was going to let the season proceed as long as all the COVID-19 safeguards were being followed. But it was not to be.

On Friday, August 14, the Representative Council of the MHSAA announced it will move the 2020 Fall football season to Spring 2021, due to football’s higher risk for spreading COVID-19, with the rest of Fall sports proceeding as scheduled.

According to a news release from the MHSAA, 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 four days of practice. Football is considered a high-risk sport for potential spread of the COVID-19 virus because of its level of player-to-player contact.

A total of 34,219 student-athletes played football at MHSAA member schools during the 2019 season. A total of 520 11-player teams and 83 8-player teams were anticipated during late summer to play football this fall season.

“At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “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.”

Some Michigan athletic directors and coaches have posted on social media that they never received the survey. John Norton, CAA, the Athletic Director for Cedar Springs Public Schools, told the Post he did receive the survey, but was in favor of continuing the season. 

“The survey came from the MHSAA executive director late in the day and was due the next morning,” he explained. “The survey asked for our opinions on basically all Fall sports and (not sure of exact wording) but if we wanted to continue on/ or if we thought it was safe to continue on for each sport. I responded that I felt we were at a point, in regards to safety of coaches and athletes, that we could continue on with all the fall sports, football included.”

Norton thinks the team may have been safer playing football than not.

“I feel the MHSAA has put some serious and strict safeguards in place that have made competitive school athletics an extremely safe environment for our coaches and kids.  Personally, without sports or without football specifically, I do not know if our student-athletes will be as conscious about wearing masks, hygiene, social distancing and gathering in large groups on their own time. While I know this is an unpredictable virus that can do serious harm, we will never be able to completely eliminate that risk, but I feel our athletic venues are a safe place where the risk of transmission has been drastically reduced compared to sectors of our society.   

“A lot of time and extra work by school administrators, coaches and custodians, along with guidance from the health department and the MHSAA have helped to make our facilities a place where I feel the transmission of Covid-19 is reduced and at a low risk, but I am also not a medical professional.”

Head football coach Gus Kapolka shared what he was feeling about the announcement with the Cedar Springs football family and fans through Facebook. “I would like to reach out to the Cedar Springs Football Family in this time of uncertainty and reassure everyone that this postponement is a minor setback. For the past week, we have grown together as a team, family and community. I believe that this cruel act of injustice will not end us, nor will it define us. It will only serve to make us stronger, toughen our resolve, and focus our efforts. 

“I do not know what the future will bring, but I look forward to a day that I can hug each and everyone of you again and tell you how much you mean to me, and we can share that brotherhood in pursuit of our dreams. Someday very soon, ‘Hell’s Bells’ will play over the loudspeakers, while a Red & Black clad team will take the field in front of an entire small town, and all will be right with the world on a Friday Night. But until that day, never take anything for granted, and covet each day we have together as a gift. Until that day….Go Red Hawks.”

The team continued practicing together through Wednesday. An announcement of some kind was expected Wednesday on what spring football might look like but was postponed until Thursday.

Meanwhile there is a protest movement afoot, made up of thousands of fans and parents, protesting the MHSAA decision. The group, called Let Michigan High School football play!!, is active on Facebook and has done several interviews about the impact of the MHSAA’s decision, and hopes to get them to reverse it.

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School sports to start next week

From CS Athletic Director John Norton

Cedar Springs High School Fall Sports start the week of August 10.  All the tryout information you need—times, locations, etc. can be found on the school website by going to: http://www.csredhawks.org/Departments/Athletics/index.html 

Or just go to www.csredhawks.org and follow the link from the home page.

Remember, if you have a valid physical from sports last year, you do not need another one, but you must complete a form which is available at the website.

All highs school sports will begin on Wednesday, August 12, except for Football which will begin Monday, August 10 at 9 a.m. at Red Hawk stadium.

Middle school sports will begin later in August, and contact information and those days can be found at this website as well. If you have any questions, or you are new to the District, please email the athletic director at john.norton@csredhawks.org

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Rules changes announced for fall sports season

Significant rules change from a safety standpoint will be at the forefront as formal preparations for the 2009-10 fall sports season begin next week for over 110,000 students, in eight sports, at member schools of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Practice sessions began on Monday (August 10) in football with golf, followed by all other sports on Wednesday (August 12). A major change to the calendar that begins with the new year is that all sports now have a required number of practice days before they engage in competition, to provide a framework that promotes conditioning and a legitimate window for team tryouts to be conducted in.

Practice in football must begin on August 10 for all schools wishing to begin regular season games the weekend of August 27-30. Schools must have 12 days of preseason practice at all levels before their first game, which may not occur before 16 calendar days. All football schools must also conduct at least three conditioning days of practice before beginning contact, and the conditioning sessions may not include any pads.

In golf and tennis, competition may commence no earlier than after three separate days of team practice, and not before seven calendar days. The first day competition may take place in golf and tennis is August 19. In all other fall sports, contests can take place after seven days of practice for the team and not before 14 calendar days.The first day competition may take place in cross country, tennis soccer, swimming and diving, and volleyball in the fall is August 21.

This year, two football dates precede Labor Day, and Thursday varsity games will take place both weeks. In Week 1, 41 eleven-player games will be played on Thursday, 250 contests will be played on Friday, and 15 games will be played on Saturday. The following weekend, 216 games will be played on Thursday, 86 games will be played on Friday, and 7 games will be played on Saturday.

The major football rules change by the National Federation of State High School for 2009 is that the horse-collar tackle has been added to the list of illegal personal fouls. Effective this season, it will be illegal to grab the inside back or side collar of the runner’s shoulder pads or jersey and subsequently pull the runner to the ground. The penalty will be 15 yards from the succeeding spot.

There are two other risk-minimization changes in 2009.  One change will make it illegal to grasp an opponent’s chin strap, in addition to the opponent’s face mask or edge of a helmet opening.  The national rules committee also made a significant change in an effort to reduce the risk of injury along the sidelines.  A maximum of three coaches may be in the restricted area between the sideline and the restraining line to communicate with players during dead-ball situations. Before the ball becomes live, however, the coaches must retreat into the team box. This is to keep the six-foot zone between the sideline and the restraining line open for officials the length of the field. The restraining line is also in place outside the team bench area to keep other sideline personnel—chain gangs, trainers, media, and others—back from the field during play.

The most visible rules change in girls volleyball will permit head coaches to stand during play with limitations.  The head coach may stand in the libero replacement zone during play, and shall not be closer than six feet to the sideline.  If the team bench is carded by the official at any point during the match, the head coach will lose the privilege to stand for the remainder of the match. Additionally, a change was made to allow the ball to contact any part of the body legally. Previously, the ball was only allowed to hit a player from the waist up for the contact to be legal.

Based on an increase of sponsorship by member schools in Lower Peninsula Girls Golf, the MHSAA post-season tournament expands to four divisions of plays beginning this fall.

The 2009 fall campaign culminates with post-season tournaments beginning with the Upper Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals the week of Sept. 30, and wraps up with the Football Playoff Finals on November 27-28.  Here is a complete list of fall tournament dates:

Cross Country:

U.P. Finals — Oct. 24
L.P. Regionals — Oct. 30 or 31
L.P. Finals — Nov. 7


Selection Sunday – Oct. 25
Pre-Districts – Oct. 30 or 31
District Finals — Nov. 6 or 7
Regional Finals — Nov. 13 or 14
Semifinals — Nov. 21
Finals — Nov. 27-28

L.P. Girls Golf:

Regionals — Oct. 8 or 9 or 10
Finals — Oct. 16-17


Boys L.P. Districts — Oct. 19-24
Boys L.P. Regionals – Oct. 27-31
Boys L.P. Semifinals – Nov. 4
Boys L.P. Finals — Nov. 7

L.P. Girls Swimming & Diving:

Diving Quals — Nov. 17
Swimming/Diving Finals-Nov. 20-21


U.P. Girls Finals – Sept. 30 or Oct. 1 or 2 or 3
L.P. Boys Regionals — Oct. 8 or 9 or 10
L.P. Finals –Oct. 16-17

Girls Volleyball:

Districts -Nov. 2-4 & Nov. 5 or 6 or 7
Regionals – Nov. 10 & 12
Quarterfinals – Nov. 17
Semifinals – Nov. 19-20
Finals – Nov. 21

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