Utica among five Michigan teams to pass on football playoffs
Utica was among the first teams to cancel a game, due to player having a COVID-19 positive test prior to its season opener against L’Anse Creuse North.
Now, Utica is among the first teams to end its season, again due to COVID-19, first canceling its regular-season finale with Sterling Heights while also saying it would not be playing in the state playoffs.
The MHSAA allowed all teams to participate in the state playoffs for the first time after shortening the regular season to six games back in September.
Utica joins Wyoming Lee, Mattawan, Concord and Allegan as 11-player schools that will not be in the playoffs, MHSAA spokesman Geoff Kimmerly said.
After a Week 1 cancellation, Utica dominated New Anchor Bay 36-8, then defeated rival Utica Ford 34-17 before a tough 23-21 loss to Warren Mott and a 35-21 loss to St. Clair Shores Lakeview last Friday. Mott and Anchor Bay shared the MAC White title.
If Rochester Hills Stoney Creek – 5-0 and ranked No. 14 in The Detroit News Super 20 – earns a win in its finale Friday night against Birmingham Groves it would get a first-round bye in the state playoffs with Utica now out of the picture.
“Sounds like we’d get a bye, but it’s disappointing with this COVID stuff hitting teams, you’re dodging bullets every day hoping your kids won’t get it,” said Stoney Creek coach Nick Merlo.
“You just have to be thankful for all (the games) we’ve had so far. We’ve earned a share of the OAA White and have to take care of business on Friday. We have a big challenge when we play Groves at home; Groves beat us last year (28-23) and has a high-powered offense.
“It’s going to be a great night at Stoney Creek. It’s our Senior Night and we’re honoring a special young man, Collin Jones, who is a fourth grader at one of our elementary feeder schools, Hugger Elementary. He’s very, very sick. His Make-A-Wish was to become an NFL owner so he could raise money to help other people, so we’re going to make him an honorary Stoney Creek football team owner. We have a little owner’s box set up for him. We have a bunch of goodies for him. We’re going to honor him and his family at halftime. He only thinks of other people. He’s a special kid.”