Grosse Pointe South players huddle up before a game last season. Teams around the area are hopeful football returns in the spring, if not sooner.

Grosse Pointe South players huddle up before a game last season. Teams around the area are hopeful football returns in the spring, if not sooner.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


High school football coaches weigh in on initial postponement

By: Mark Vest, Zachary Manning | C&G Newspapers | Published September 3, 2020

 West Bloomfield High football players are pictured last season. The Michigan High School Athletic Association made a decision to move football to the spring season this year.

West Bloomfield High football players are pictured last season. The Michigan High School Athletic Association made a decision to move football to the spring season this year.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Madison Heights Bishop Foley coach Brian Barnes masks up during a recent practice. As of press time, football has been postponed until spring.

Madison Heights Bishop Foley coach Brian Barnes masks up during a recent practice. As of press time, football has been postponed until spring.

Photo provided by Bishop Foley Athletics

Editor’s note: At press time, the Michigan High School Athletic Association was still working with state government officials on having a shortened fall season. For the most current updates, follow @CandGSports on Twitter.

While a few fall sports will be able to take part in competitions this fall, as of press time, football will have to wait until the spring.

Programs around the state will still get ready to hit the gridiron for practice before then, albeit with limitations. In accordance with Michigan High School Athletic Association guidelines, teams will be allowed 16 voluntary coach-player contact days with more than four players.

The rule limits players to helmets only and runs until Oct. 31. No competition or practices are allowed with teams from other schools. Starting Nov. 1, coaches will only be able to meet with four players at a time, known as the four-player rule.

“There are a lot of people who are disappointed and frustrated, and we understand that,” MHSAA Media and Content Coordinator Geoff Kimmerly said. “We’re not just people in a building helping to build the policies behind these decisions. We’re people that have connections to these sports, be it our own children or others who are connected to football, especially. So, we understand why people are disappointed. But we’ve also heard from a lot of schools that are happy with that decision.”

At press time, the MHSAA was still working with state officials on possibly having a shortened fall season. Follow @CandGSports on Twitter for updates.

When the initial decision was made to postpone the season, coaches from around the area had a mixed bag of feelings toward the decision.

West Bloomfield football coach Ron Bellamy sees some positives and negatives of a spring season. One drawback for the Lakers is the wealth of top-tier talent that may not be there to play.

Running back Donovan Edwards and defensive back Maxwell Hairston are two highly touted prospects that may leave the program prior to a spring season.

“Universities usually ask the kids to early enroll, so they’d be, essentially, foregoing their second semester of high school,” the coach said.

Some benefits of a spring season are the fact that Bellamy will get some extra work with his players, while government leaders work to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19 before the start of the season.

“Long as we get a chance to play spring football, I’m OK with the decision,” Bellamy said. “My thought was I don’t want to have a season that’s interrupted. They didn’t think we could do that without cases popping up.

Orchard Lake St. Mary’s coach George Porritt said players were “disappointed” with the decision.

“But they’re hanging on their hopes, and they know right now that’s what they got,” Porritt said. “I know it’s not easy for (them).”

Madison Heights Bishop Foley coach Brian Barnes was initially disappointed about the move, but he recognized that it was out of the MHSAA’s hands.

“I am very appreciative of the job that Mark Uyl and the (football coaches association) have done to try and get us playing this fall,” Barnes said. “We are turning this setback into a positive and are using our extra time this fall to get to build stronger relationships with each other, while working on specific football skills and concepts.”

With surrounding states going forward with football this fall, some weren’t so happy with the postponement.

Troy Athens coach Billy Keenist Jr. noted that his team adhered to every guideline put in place in preparation for a fall season. With the decision made, however, Keenist Jr. and the Red Hawks will continue to follow the state’s procedures in hopes of spring football coming to fruition.

“It was extremely disappointing, and the frustration has grown a little bit, seeing how Ohio and Pennsylvania high schools are playing,” Keenist Jr. said. “I would say disappointed and frustrated are the two main emotions there.”

Another issue multiple coaches have brought is the weather. Spring sports teams are usually battling the likes of harsh weather.

With Michigan’s unpredictable weather patterns, some coaches are wondering whether a spring season will just have more delays or cause teams to find different ways to practice.

“Baseball and softball, those kinds of sports, they can start in a gym. They can put down cages, and they can hit and throw and those kinds of things. How are we supposed to block and tackle in a gym,” Grosse Pointe South coach Tim Brandon said. “If you’re not Country Day or one of those programs that has their own indoor facility, you’re going to be either cramped up in a gym trying to figure it out or you’re going to be outside in the freezing cold in March.”

In the Lower Peninsula, girls golf and boys tennis are two sports that have been permitted to have a fall season.

West Bloomfield High tennis coach Chris Ludwig is good with the decision to allow his sport to play on.

“Personally, I think it’s fine,” Ludwig said. “For tennis, I do think it’s worthwhile to try and do it. They say golf and tennis are two (of the) best sports when it comes to staying away from each other.”

With football now set for the spring, programs will now be doing everything in their power to make sure that goes on according to plan.

Clawson High coach Jim Sparks noted that his team has been following strict guidelines when they meet. He’s also encouraged his players to join other fall sports that they normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience.

“We wear masks, we sanitize frequently and we socially distance as much as possible,” Sparks said.

In terms of optimism for a spring season, coaches are looking at the bright side of things. Football has just been postponed, not canceled.

The biggest thing is everyone just wants to play, whether it be later in fall or in the spring.

“As a program, we just want to continue to take the safe measures that it’s going to take in order to have a season, especially for our seniors,” Roseville High coach Vernard Snowden said. “I’m hoping every program is taking the same approach. Let’s all work together, mask up and do what we need to do so that we can have a season.”

Sports Writer Jacob Herbert contributed to this story.