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Football on the horizon: Whitmer OK’s fall return

Calumet tailback Dean Loukus catches a pass from quarterback Scott Loukus on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Calumet, Mich. (Adam Niemi/The Daily Mining Gazette)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted restrictions with Executive Order 176 Thursday that previously barred the high school football season.

Reacting to Whitmer’s move, the Michigan High School Athletic Association Representative Council voted later Thursday to reinstate high school football. The MHSAA announced the decision Thursday afternoon.

Face coverings are required at all sporting events with 25% capacity.

The first games kick off Friday, Sept. 18 beginning the six-game season with originally scheduled Week 4 opponents. All teams in 11-player and eight-player automatically qualify for the playoffs.

The eight-player finals are Nov. 27-28 and 11-player finals are Dec. 4-5.

“We are thankful for the opportunity for kids to get back on the field in all fall sports, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer providing that opportunity with Executive Order 176 ,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said. “We share the Governor’s priorities of putting health and safety first, and the COVID-19 guidance and protocols designed by the MHSAA at her request have led to the safe starts in all sports across the state.

“Thirty-three other states are currently participating in all fall sports, and the MHSAA and its member schools are committed to doing this as safely as possible,” Uyl added. “We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy. Given the challenges of online education in many school districts across the state, providing sports and a daily routine may be more important than ever in motivating students and providing a safe outlet for physical activity, competition and socialization.”

Football teams were allowed to practice in helmets only beginning Aug. 10. The Representative Council approved contact days beginning Aug. 24. With the reinstatement, the MHSAA said all teams must cease activity until Tuesday, Sept. 8 and then practice two days in helmets and shoulder pads before adding full pads Thursday, Sept. 10.

The MHSAA voted Aug. 14 to postpone football until the spring. On Aug. 20, the organization approved the start of competition in volleyball, soccer and swimming. Schools are not required to play in any of those sports this fall and can postpone until the spring. The MHSAA will hold postseason events in those four sports only for the fall season. The MHSAA said all other fall sports tournaments besides football will be held as previously scheduled.

Whitmer’s new executive order also allowed gyms and ice rinks to reopen.

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