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Plans to resume: MHSAA OKs December for fall finals, January as start to winter sports

Westwood's Luke Vidlund, left, and Ishpeming's Ronnie Heidelberger get in a hold during their MHSAA Division 4 team district tournament finals match at 145 pounds on Feb. 13 at Ishpeming High School. (Journal file photo by Ryan Spitza)

EAST LANSING — Michigan high school football championship games would be played on weekdays during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays if the state allows fall sports to resume, officials from the Michigan High School Athletic Association said Wednesday.

Sports and in-person classes are on a three-week break in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus. An order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shutting down many activities, which includes high school sports, took effect Wednesday and would end Dec. 9.

Under the MHSAA’s plan, football playoffs would resume on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 15 and 16, under a plan approved by the MHSAA’s Representative Council. That would give teams up to a full week to resume practices in preparation for those games.

The 11-player tournaments have three rounds remaining and would have their semifinals on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 21-22, and championship games on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 28-29, at Ford Field in Detroit. The typical Friday-Saturday format, at least for the finals, wouldn’t be practical with Christmas and New Year’s Day falling on Fridays this season.

The two remaining Upper Peninsula teams in the 11-player tournaments are Negaunee in Division 6 and Iron Mountain in Division 8.

Marquette's Grace Henning performs during her floor exercise in a high school gymnastics meet against Negaunee held at the Barb Crill Gymnasium in Marquette on Jan. 29. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

The Miners (6-3) are scheduled to play at Grayling (6-3) in their next game, the regional championship. IM (8-1) hosts Johannesburg-Lewiston (9-0) in its regional final.

Eight-player football, which only has two rounds to go, would have its semifinals on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 15-16, and championship games on Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 21-22, outdoors at the Midland Community Stadium. They were changed this fall from the indoor setting of the Superior Dome in Marquette.

The only remaining U.P. team, which is in Division 2, is North Central. The Jets (9-0) are set to host Marion (8-1) in the state semifinals.

Volleyball quarterfinals would be held Tuesday, Dec. 15, followed by the semifinals on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 17-18, and the finals on Saturday, Dec. 19, in Battle Creek. Lower Peninsula swimming and diving finals would be held Dec. 22-23.

In volleyball, like football, three U.P. teams are still alive in their tournaments, Calumet in Division 3 and Carney-Nadeau and Rudyard in Division 4.

Negaunee's Nash Hillier makes a move to elude the tackle of Westwood defender Zach Carlson during their MHSAA Division 6 high school football playoff game at the Patriots' field on Nov. 6. (Photo courtesy Curtis Aho)

Every one of the dozen winter sports sponsored by the MHSAA that include U.P. teams has also been affected by the state order, either because of practice times, game schedules, or in the case of most sports, both.

The Representative Council OK’d allowing practices to resume Dec. 9 and, if approved by the MDHHS, competition beginning on Jan. 4.

“We understand where COVID(-19) numbers were trending, and that’s why we have been supportive of the order to pause,” said Mark Uyl, director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. “But these fall sports deserve closure, and this strategy provides the best opportunities without further interruptions to a normal course of training and competition.

“A very small percentage of our teams remain active in our fall tournaments, also limiting potential exposure to the virus across the state. Meanwhile, by waiting until January to begin winter competition, the council is allowing our teams to continue activity but also restricting the mixing of communities to further promote reducing COVID spread.”

The Representative Council meets again Dec. 4 for its annual fall meeting and will consider adjustments to the announced times depending on current conditions.

The council is a 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA, with all but five members elected by member schools.

Some information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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