I've been taking a few walks lately to improve my fitness, and Tuesday evening's constitutional felt different.
Unlike the last two months, in which blinking appears to trigger a full-body sweat, it was borderline chilly out there - I recognized it right away as the sort of borderline chilly that takes place during the fourth quarter of a game in the second or third week of the football season. I got another chill after that, but it was a different kind: the kind that comes with knowing that fall is on the way.
Ask any prospective fall athlete. Then again, you may have to wait on that, since all of them are now practicing.
The good news is that when I got back to my apartment, it was still really warm, which I assume means either I left the oven on or I've got a few more weeks of summer left. In the interim, here's a few things that will look different in 2011.
Eight-man football is growing, particularly in the U.P. A tendril of that growth will extend into Ontonagon County, where Ewen-Trout Creek will be participating full-time in the discipline. Unfortunately for them, the closest school to E-TC that will play eight-man in 2011 is Superior Central. The first E-TC 8-man game will be in Ewen Aug. 26 against Rapid River. The Rockets are also switching to the smaller format after playing 11-man in a short-lived co-operative agreement with Mid Peninsula. Mid Pen is also playing 8-man and is expected to face E-TC in suburban Perkins in Week 6.
There are now 20 8-man programs in the state, which means the MHSAA will crown its first 8-man champ on Nov. 19.
Rules changes for football this year are otherwise relatively minor. An official's timeout will be charged for the removal of a player from the game for an apparent injury. The player must sit for at least one down, and his team can't call a timeout to get him back on the field.
A horse-collar tackle is now a live-ball foul, and a roughing the passer penalty will be 15 yards plus the yardage gained.
Also, any Tim Tebow emulators will have to find a different means of expression - messages on eye black have been banned, as has excessive use.
There are a handful of changes in several local teams' schedules. Ontonagon wins the bravery award this year. The Gladiators replaced E-TC and Northland Pines, Wis., on their slate with North Central (Week 1 in Powers) and Ishpeming (Week 6 at home) for 2011. This means that, including the Gladiators' Great Western Conference play, they will face seven 2010 playoff teams.
Lake Linden-Hubbell has picked up a Week 8 game at North Dickinson, sure to be a great matchup between two Division 8 powerhouses.
Hancock will travel to Baraga in Week 2 for an interesting local showdown (last year, the Bulldogs were at Forest Park), while L'Anse will travel to Munising for its season finale.
No changes are scheduled for volleyball rules in 2011. Districts involving local Class C teams are tentatively set for Ironwood, with the Houghton and Baraga County Class D district location to be determined.
Finally, wristwatches are no longer banned jewelry for prep cross country runners.
I don't need a watch to keep the pace until it's time to kick off the 2011-12 season. I can feel it in the air.
Brandon Veale can be reached at email@example.com.