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Mid-Michigan football coaches hoping to salvage a fall season

Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 1:17 PM EDT
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GENESEE COUNTY, Mich. (WJRT) - High school football teams across Mid-Michigan have been on a roller coaster this summer.

They started practice and then were told the season would be postponed until the spring. But on Monday, the Michigan High School Athletic Association asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to revisit her decision to move the season to the spring.

That opens the possibility of a fall high school football season taking place in Michigan. It’s a Hail Mary move, but with other states kicking off this fall Mid-Michigan teams are hanging onto hope.

“It’s been tough for the kids to get their hopes up and and then it gets shut down and then get them up again,” said Grand Blanc Head Coach Clint Alexander.

On Aug. 10, high school football teams around Mid-Michigan were set to practice with helmets only. A week later on Aug. 17, they were allowed to wear full pads while still following social distancing guidelines.

But on Aug. 14 -- just four days after stepping on the field as a team -- the MHSAA postponed the season to the spring.

“When they made that decision, they didn’t have to tell 160 kids the bad news,” Alexander said. “We had to pick up the pieces. We literally set up the equipment return and then we got an email we could practice and then Thursday it was done again.”

With many emotions circling, the main one is keeping confident for the season.

“We use the analogy it’s kind of like the weather, we can’t control it so you just got to do the best you can and get yourself through it and hope for the best,” Alexander said.

Fenton Head Coach Jeff Setzke tried to look at the positives of a possible spring season, including the likelihood that fans and cheerleaders would be allowed at the games.

As of Monday, teams are allowed to practice 16 times until Oct. 31. With roughly eight weeks until that date, coaches are strategizing the best way to go about it.

“Wanted to keep them excited, keep them going and not overwhelm them,” Alexander said. “If we do finish in October and start in March with the holidays we’re going to have a short time to get them back in shape.”

But that could all change quickly if Whitmer approves the fall football season. The MHSAA wants a two-week training period before starting any games this fall, but there was no word on Monday how that would affect the season schedule if it takes place.

“We can start the season in my mind by Sept. 25 and it would be a shortened season and we can roll up right to Christmas time,” Setzke said. “I don’t see winter sports getting started before then. Like I said, my math says we can have a game Sept. 25 and still pull it off. There’s still some hope.”

With different scenarios up in the air, one thing remains consistent.

“The blessing of football it’s all about adversity,” Alexander said. “When things like this happen, a kid who plays football knows life is never going to go the way you want. You’ve go to handle it.”

The fate of boys’ soccer, volleyball and swimming/diving this fall also rest in Whitmer’s hands, because those also require a change in a coronavirus order limiting certain sports competitions.

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