HOUGHTON - Winter will eventually leave the Copper Country, but it's taking down as much as it can before it does, with Michigan Tech's spring football game being the latest victim.
The Huskies were originally scheduled to play their annual intrasquad contest at 1 p.m. Saturday, at Sherman Field, but the turf was not ready following Friday's big winter storm, forcing the coaching staff to cancel the culminating event of the spring practice season.
"It's unfortunate we can't play," Tech coach Tom Kearly said. "The spring game is for the players. It always has been. We get work in evaluation and practice, which is important for the coaches, but it's for them. Our kids wanted to play, but they understand we're not going to risk somebody getting hurt."
This photo was taken March 27, near the beginning of the Michigan Tech spring football practice period, but conditions never got much better and a winter storm Friday left too much snow on the artificial turf in time for the Huskies to conduct their annual spring intrasquad game at Sherman Field. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
The team was ready for the possibility it would be canceled a few days prior, particularly following Friday team meetings.
"With local schools letting out early and Spring Fling already canceled on Friday, we knew it wasn't a real good probability of having the game," Kearly said.
He met with Tech grounds crew workers at about 8:30 Saturday morning to evaluate the conditions, and even with plow trucks able to remove the snow down to 2-3 inches (no closer or it would start ripping up the small rubber pieces making up the base of the turf), the remaining melting wouldn't likely occur with temperatures in the mid-20s. None of the bleacher seats would have been accessible to fans anyway, according to a Tech release put out Friday announcing that plans for the game were tentative.
Tech grounds crew workers, led by Pete Pelissero and Jerod Ledgerwood, helped salvage much of the team's spring practice season. The Huskies were able to hold nine of their 14 spring practices outdoors, which wouldn't have been possible before the new artificial turf was installed in 2008.
"The thing that's saved us has been the turf," Kearly said. "If we didn't have it, we would have been indoors all spring. This year's late winter comes back to back with last year, which was abnormally early. We had all our practices outside then, and players were getting sun tans by mid-March."
Kearly recalls maybe one other instance of a spring game being cancelled, but records are not kept for the somewhat-casual intrasquad events.
The game could not be rescheduled because a new NCAA rule prevents teams from practicing the week before final exams. Exams are scheduled for April 29 through May 3.
The players will now have spring exit meetings with Kearly and their position coaches before a final team meeting late this week. Summer workout plans will be put in place and the coaches will do some spring recruiting. The team will report in August for fall practices, and the first game is slated for Sept. 14 at Tiffin. The home opener will be Sept. 21 against Walsh.
Editor's note: Visit the Daily Mining Gazette online sports section at mininggazette.com to access all eight parts of our spring football position-by-position analysis, which were published over the last two weeks.