'It was a shocker': No high school football a bitter pill for Michigan coaches, players

David Goricki
The Detroit News

River Rouge coach Corey Parker was blindsided Friday with the news the MHSAA was postponing the high school football season this fall, pushing it to spring.

Parker, a regional director of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association, thought the news coming from MHSAA director Mark Uyl would be that the season would be pushed back a week or two, having a shortened season like Ohio.

Corey Parker

But while Ohio’s season has been cut to six regular-season games and then the playoffs – where all schools are allowed to compete – the Michigan season was pushed back to spring. And what made the announcement even more painful to Michigan’s players and coaches was that another neighboring state, Indiana, permitted its teams to have scrimmages against other schools that same day.

“It was a shocker,” said Parker, who guided River Rouge to the Division 3 state championship last fall. “We had no clue this was coming because all of the information that we had prior was that the first plan was to make a reduction of games. And then we went from not having a reduction of games to now we’re having a spring season. It was a shock because we always thought there would be phases to it, so it’s tough.

“I feel bad for the kids, for all the hard work the kids have put in it. You see some states continue to play so you ask, ‘What are they are doing there that’s different here?’”

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Parker is also River Rouge’s athletic director, so he will have a lot to manage in the coming months, including the boys basketball season and how that is likely to overlap with a spring football season.

River Rouge was ranked No. 1 in the state when the basketball season came to a halt in mid-March due to COVID-19.

Parker’s best receiver is Jalen Holly, who is also a defensive stopper in basketball.

 “The players are going to have to decide between football, baseball and track, then basketball could run into football, and there’s AAU basketball going on in the spring,” Parker said. “Kids are going to have to make big decisions.

“It’s going to be tough for kids transitioning from basketball to football. Jalen Holly is probably one of the best defensive players in the entire state of Michigan (in basketball), had a great game and held Emoni Bates to under 12 points. He’s also our top receiver and I’m expecting him to catch a lot of passes. So I’m really in a tough situation because he’s expected to lead us again to another state championship, so how do we know what that will look like if we start early in March and he’s playing basketball well into March.”

Ron Bellamy

West Bloomfield coach Ron Bellamy says Michigan high school players will be hurt by the decision to cancel the fall season.

“I think our kids will ultimately get hurt by this because we’re not having football in the fall and you’re going to see some schools like Michigan and Michigan State reach out for some out-of-state kids that have senior year film, so it sucks for our kids,” Bellamy said.

Bellamy is expected to have several of his players graduate early and enroll in college in January, including four-star running back Donovan Edwards.

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Bellamy thinks some Michigan high school seniors will be playing college football in the spring, right out of the gate.

“Absolutely,” Bellamy said. “This is the best analogy: You’re a junior in college and all of a sudden Mel Kiper or Todd McShay say you’re a legit draft pick, so do you go to your senior year? Probably not. The same is true for a high school kid going early to college. If you tell a big-time recruit like Donovan, ‘Why put wear and tear on your body of playing spring football, which potentially could end in June and then go to training camp (for college) in August?’ It’s tough to try and suggest the kid to stay.”

Notre Dame-bound four-star lineman Rocco Spindler is heartbroken that his high school career has come to a close. He plans to enroll early at Notre Dame.

“I’m pretty upset (but) understand it was a very tough decision for them to make,” said Spindler. “We all wanted to play, but I guess safety come first.

“I don’t understand how we have Florida and Texas still playing, but I guess we’re in a pandemic and there’s nothing they (MHSAA) can do about it.”

IMG Academy in Florida contacted Spindler when the news broke of Michigan’s high school season being pushed back, wanting to know if he wanted to play his senior year down south. But Spindler plans to stay at Clarkston, then travel to South Bend in January.

“They (Notre Dame) still plan on me and a couple of other early enrollees coming in early to get us up to speed to get ready for the fall season,” Spindler said. “I’m looking forward to learning the playbook and getting in the weight room. Hopefully, they’ll get to play this fall. Really, it’s the only thing that’s going for me right now.”